Thousands of years ago, a proud empire ruled the known world. This golden age was shattered when portals opened to Xoriat. Hordes of aberrations poured through the gates, and behind them came the daelkyr. The Lords of Madness twisted the land and its creatures, capturing the champions of the Empire and turning them into horrors.
It’s a familiar story, but there’s a twist. This isn’t the Empire of Dhakaan—and it isn’t Eberron. The people of this empire were gifted psychics, and their cities were made from crysteel and solidified emotion. They fought the daelkyr with sword and thought, the great leader Gith rallying her forces against the corrupting influence of Xoriat. But there was no victory to be won. There were no Gatekeepers in this world, no knowledge of the primal power that saved Eberron. This land was doomed. Retreat was the only option, and so Gith rallied the wisest of her kind and found a way to open portals into the realms beyond reality. The only remnant of these proud people were the heroes twisted by the Dyrrn the Corruptor, psychic champions transformed into living weapons: the Mind Flayers.
The refugees fell into the realm of Kythri, and the Churning Chaos hid them from pursuit. The greatest monks of the people—now calling themselves the Gith, after their savior—carved out a pocket of stability with their minds. They regained their strength and evaluated the situation, and here a bitter division split their people. Zerthimon the Wise maintained that the Gith should remain within Kythri, strengthening their will through the endless struggle against chaos. He believed that mental discipline was the ultimate key to victory—that in time, the Gith could impose their will on Xoriat itself, taking the daelkyr’s home just as the Lords of Madness had stolen theirs. But Gith was a warrior, and her followers yearned for battle. They knew they weren’t strong enough to face the daelkyr, but they built their fortresses in the space between spaces and began raiding different layers of reality: pillaging floating towers in Syrania and slaughtering devils on the plains of Shavarath. One day they would find a way to utterly destroy Xoriat; until then, they would hone their skills in conflicts across the planes.
Eberron wasn’t the first world visited by the daelkyr. It’s been said that the daelkyr view the destruction of worlds as a form of art; it’s an art they’ve practiced since the dawn of time. The illithids are both a relic of this conflict and a promise of what might lie ahead. Should the daelkyr rise and complete their work, there could come a time when the dolgaunts and dolgrims are all that remains of Eberron. And what of the Gith? They’re carved out a new existence beyond what we know of as reality. They’re planar hermits and plunderers, pondering mysteries we cannot imagine and gathering treasures and weapons from across the planes. Generally Gith are encountered as individuals, explorers, philosophers, or agents with a mission. But there could come a time when the Githyanki arrive in force. Will they come to destroy the daelkyr? Or will they come as conquerors?
But What About…
I remember being intrigued by the Githyanki on the cover of the Fiend Folio when I first saw it as a teenager. I was intrigued by the idea of this deeply alien society—of a civilization that had abandoned the material world and carved out a place in the planes. There’s a place for everything in Eberron, and it was obvious the Gith would be somewhere. I had thoughts on the matter, but I wasn’t the one who wrote the Gith entry in the Player’s Guide to Eberron. The PGtE suggests that the Gith were created from human or hobgoblin stock during the daelkyr invasion of Eberron, and that they escaped when the Gatekeepers bound the daelkyr. There’s a number of things I don’t like about this explanation. Essentially, it downgrades the Gith to being discarded dolgrims—which is also strange because for creatures “created by the mind flayers from hobgoblin stock” they’re not aberrations and are far less disturbing than the dolgaunts and dolgrims. More than that, I want the Gith to be the heroes of their own story—not playing second fiddle to the Gatekeepers. They may have failed to save their world, but at least they fought to the bitter end.
The other thing I like about this story is that it adds depth to the daelkyr themselves. It establishes that they’ve done this before and that if not for the Gatekeepers, Eberron would share the fate of the forgotten world of the Gith. It also provides a different approach to the enmity between the mind flayers and the Gith. It’s not simply that the illithids were slavemasters. It’s that the illithid were Gith—and remain now as the twisted reminder of the destruction of their world. And it’s not that the Gith have psychic powers because they were altered by mind flayers; it’s that the mind flayers have psionic power because they were created from the naturally psychic Gith. Given that time and space have no absolute rules in Xoriat and there’s no law about the lifespan of a mind flayer, it also leaves the possibility that some of the mind flayers on Eberron were part of that ancient war—that the mysterious grudge Xor’chyllic has against the daelkyr could tie back to its history with the Gith.
In the meantime, the Gith themselves offer hooks for planar adventures. A Githzerai player character may have come to Eberron in pursuit of a particular idea, while a Githyanki could be searching for a more practical weapon; either could be here to gather information on the daelkyr and their cults. A player Gith could be an explorer or a renegade, perhaps caryying a warning of an upcoming Githyanki incursion. Adventurers in Kythri could find shelter in a Githzerai monastery, while a Githyanki vessel could carry adventurers from plane to plane.
And what of the lost world of the Gith? What does it mean that there is a lost world? How many more are there? One possibility is that Eberron has a solar system, or that the Gith world is one of the moons. However, Xoriat defies our concepts of time and space, and I’d personally play it that from Xoriat you can enter any number of alternate versions of Eberron, the ruined Gith world is one; but what other alternate Eberrons could you reach through Xoriat?
I’m currently working on Exploring Eberron, a product for the DM’s Guild which will delve more deeply into the planes and their relationship to Eberron, along with many other subjects. I may have some previews to share soon. Thanks as always to my Patreon backers! I’ll be posting more articles once I get done with Exploring Eberron. You can also find be at Pax Unplugged, and if you’re in Portland, Oregon I’ll be doing an Eberron signing and Q&A at Guardian Games on November 23rd!
This is such a fascinating take, and still leaves it open as to whether the Gith originated on another planet in the cosmos or a different plane.
I won’t be in Portland on the 23rd. But I guarantee that we will meet again, in the future.
Are there other planets in Eberron’s solar system?
Also, is Eberron part of a material plane universe (ie. with stars, solar systems, galaxies, etc), or is it in a pocket dimension? I haven’t seen any lore stating the stars and constellations in Eberron are anything but what they appear to be, but I’m a big fan of surreal pocket realities where astrophysics don’t apply (eg. Elder Scrolls, Midgard campaign setting by Wolfgang Baur). If Eberron has an unusual cosmology (beyond just its planes) I’d love to know more!
It’s never been established in canon, but I’d argue all signs point to pocket reality. The original creation myth is that the progenitors created the planes and that they then literally BECAME the world and the ring; there’s never been any discussion of them flying around creating other planets. It also fits with the optional premise that the Progenitors created Eberron’s cosmology as an isolated pocket from the rest of the Multiverse. having said that, you as a DM could decide that the Progenitors are a myth and that all of the is BS, but to me it fits. We’ve also called out that the planes converge on Eberron, that the quori seek to stabilize Dal Quor by controlling Eberron… that implies that Eberron holds a particular favored position.
As to how that relates to the story I present here, there’s a few possibilities. Eberron could have a tight solar system, or the Gith world could have been one of the moons, or as suggested in another comment, part of the Ring of Siberys. Personally, I like the idea of alternate realities—that through Xoriat you can access DIFFERENT Eberrons, fitting with the idea that Xoriat defies our understanding of time and physics.
I’ve personally always interpreted the progenitor myth as a flawed mortal interpretation of a far more complex draconic faith or philosophy that serves as an analogy for a yet more complex reality. If I recall correctly, the worship of the Sovereigns and the Six originated with the dragons before it spread to Xen’drik and Sarlona where local younger races made their own interpretations. Makes sense that the draconic appearance of progenitors would come from a draconic understanding of the world. Is there any validity in that? What are the chances that the progenitors are something far more…alien than the myth described? Something Lovecraftian and impossible to truly comprehend for any mind lesser than a dragon?
Also, if Eberron is in a pocket reality, what would its stars be? Are they living beings? Souls of dead dragons? Illusions carved into the inside surface of a crystal sphere? Holes that allow a glimpse into the terrifying unknown?
As long as we’re discussing alternate interpretations of the Progenitor myth, my own favorite take is that the three Progenitors are metaphors for three different planes that collided in the Astral, merged in an unequal fashion, and drew other nearby planes into orbit. Versions of the myth that claim the Progenitors created the other planes are simple embellishments to reflect newer discoveries; the few who favor the planar-collision interpretation would consider them “Dragons Aloft” instead.
In this version of things, space could be superficially similar to that of the universe we know, but with some twists. Space only happens to be a vacuum because Siberys “died” in the collision. Most surviving fragments of Siberys are things of pure magic that are otherwise uninhabitable, like deadly pockets of concentrated gaseous magic or giant Siberys dragonshards. Any life-bearing body in this Material Plane necessarily has an “Eberron” outer layer and a “Khyber” core — even if it’s something fundamentally weird like an entirely liquid world with pure water at the surface and corrupt blackwater depths. Overlords would transcend worlds, with different avatars on each one, and binding a given planet’s Overlord avatar would affect that world alone!
The alternate Eberrons notion gives me a new “crazy theory” about the Mourning! What if the Mournland is the Cyre of an alternate Eberron, one which switched places with the Cyre of Eberron Prime? Perhaps a Cyran arcanist had discovered the existence of alternate Eberrons, and built an eldritch machine to contact these worlds. Why? Maybe they hoped to persuade the armies of alternate-Cyres to cross the planes and join the War on the side of Cyre Prime. Whatever the reason, things went terribly wrong, and they contacted a world where Cyre had been devastated (By the Daelkyr? Or Gith army?) and accidentally swapped it for Cyre Prime. This could be merely one of the “crazy theories” that PCs encounter…or if they believe it, could lead them on a planar quest, through Xoriat or on a Gith ship or whatever, to try to find True Cyre. Sounds like fun!
One more thought on Crisis on Multiple Cyres: How would the Mourning appear to those in True Cyre? They suddenly find themfselves in a world in which Cyre is intact, but the rest of Khorvaire (maybe more) is devastated. The Cyrans (and any invaders who were within the borders when it happened) would assume that they had somehow destroyed the other Four Nations! Could Cyre survive if the rest of Khorvaire was devastated? What mixture of guilt, panic, etc. would exist among the populace? If the arcanist who caused the swap didn’t survive, no one might know what happened. Oh – and another theory for what might have destroyed Mournworld – perhaps the dragons decided that Khorvairean civilization was too dangerous to live (because of Apex Dragonmarks, perhaps?) and did unto Horvaire what they had done unto Xen’drik on Eberron Prime, only more so.
oh yes i love the idea to make mind flayer and gith to eberron. Perhaps make some mind flayer because is a gith race in the base of this article and why not some mind flayer are becoming good or a least haved the same mentality of gith with great psionic power of telepathy.
I have the personal theory that the gith homeworld might have been in Siberys, if dead Siberys can be seen as a layer of the Material Plane like Khyber and Eberron.
I have to agree I found the idea of the Gith being modified hobgoblins to be less than satisfactory, so I love the “return” to a truer version, if you will. This brings the Gith closer to what they are traditionally and still gives them a distinct tragic Eberron flavour.
Does the enmity between Githyanki and Githzerai still exist in Eberron? Do they “only ally to destroy illithids” as in other settings, or is there more of a peace between them? Perhaps limited planar trade (one is a roving marauder force and the other a series of secure fortresses as far as I can see, traditionally ripe for trade or war, either or)
Do the Illithid Elder Brains and the Illithid Tadpoles exist in Eberron, as a means to coordinate and populate the illithids, or are they more transitioned over to alien means of organizing and reproducing (as the Daelkyr created them)? Sticking a tadpole in a human skull seems a bit counter to the grand tragic destruction of an entire world (and raises the question of why “only” humans work in previous sourcebooks if they were supposed to be hobgoblins)
Ultimately it comes down to what is interesting for the stories you want to tell and the role they’ll play in the game. My personal inclination following the model I’ve suggested is that there is a certain amount of cultural disdain—an absolute belief that the other is following the wrong path—but that there is nonetheless trade between them. The Githzerai are stationary and the Githyanki are nomadic, and they are the lone remnants of their lost world; I can definitely see them engaging in trade, even if they continue to look down upon each other for their flawed path.
Do the Illithid Elder Brains and the Illithid Tadpoles exist in Eberron, as a means to coordinate and populate the illithids…?
It’s up to the DMs. In my previous article about the Lords of Madness sourcebook I wrote “The elder brains may be daelkyr creations, or they may actually be spiritual and physical extensions of the daelkyr. In either case, the elder brains form the backbone of the telepathic network that links the daelkyr together and allows them to monitor their servants.” As a sneak peek I’ll note that Rising From The Last War says “The mind flayers know Dyrrn the Corruptor as the Overmind, and it serves as the cornerstone of their collective consciousness.” So if Elder Brains exist they’re primarily signal boosters for Dyrrn. Personally I wouldn’t use the tadpoles and would say that the daelkyr personally create illithids; but it’s up to every DM to decide.
I like the neothelids (overgrown tadpoles) being the “right” lifecycle of illithid-kind and the mind flayers are explicitly artificial. Needless to say the daelkyr have more use for intelligent telepathic brain-eaters than semi-sentient feral predators.
When I first read your thoughts on this race in an older post, my brain instantly began working on ideas for stories. One of the biggest was how might the traditional alliance between Githyanki and Red Dragons fit in here?
Tiamat is sealed and has been for ages. More importantly, the dragons are all united in their not-empire Argonnessen. So could an interesting story involve them? I think that could be most refreshing.
First I considered a draconic rogue like Vvaraak, but she operated solo. Then there’s the idea of the Dragons seeing some sign of the Prophecy that would require a Gith army at some point, so a group of Red Dragons go to protect and manipulate them. It works, but is it missing something?
What are your thoughts on this? Anything you would change about that aspect of their lore? Want to chuck out the mono-color and go all-out with the rainbows of dragon kind? I dreamed of a Githyanki warrior bonding with a Cobalt Dragon at one point. Love those big, blue bruisers.
I would love to see Eberron’s solar system.
Thank you for this. I am playing a Githzerai Cleric, Arcane Domain. Uen’arth came to Eberron as part of a larger group that was coming from Kythri to scout Eberron, looking for evidence of Githyanki, Daelkyr, Illithid. Uen’arth was coming through a portal as The Mourning was occurring. So, many of the party vanished, were killed, who knows. Uen’arth made his way to Sharn, performing arcane research and work for various people in the city, including the University. He is a part of the group that believes the Gith ought to reunite, and he craves to learn all he can of the races and history of Eberron in hopes of finding the right place to begin to reunite the race.
I’m new to Eberron, playing for the first time in the setting. I’m feeling a little like I’ve really bitten off a lot with this race, background. So any interesting ideas or suggestions would be welcome. Thank you for such a kool setting! I like it so far.
I like the idea that they could come from one of the moon. Maybe moons affect werewolves because they are infested by xoriat?
Do you have any suggestions on how to roleplay a gith, how to make it feel how inhuman they are?
Any thoughts on Spelljammer integration? I can see Eberron being a hard to enter/leave crystal sphere and a spelljammer being mistaken as a custom made airship. Heck, might do a campaign where the Day of Mourning was caused by the Illithids and the players might find a Nautiloid.
Thinking on potential homeworlds if the Gith a bit… If there were 13 moons in the time of the Giants, and one is now gone, that seems like it would have great potential as the homeworld of the Gith. Maybe the Daelkyr used it to create something? Maybe something along the lines of Ragnorra, from Elder Evils?
If the flayers used to be Gith, then the 3.5e prestige class, Illithid Slayer, would likely originate for Gith who specialized in destroying their former kin then?
Also, how would the Gith think of the Gatekeepers? I think that they’d at least consider learning this and that to better combat the lords of Xoriat, if not actually work with them.
Also, how would the Gith think of the Gatekeepers?
Largely, this is just a question of “Have the Gith ever encountered the Gatekeepers?” The Gatekeeper tradition is an obscure druidic sect in a backwater of Khorvaire, and Eberron is an entire world. The Gatekeepers are also a DRUIDIC tradition—tied to nature and the world—and I could see the case being made that the Gith feel no primal tie to Eberron as it’s NOT THEIR WORLD. But having said that, sure, I could see a Githzerai deciding to follow the path of the Gatekeepers.
I really like the new history concept. =)
Much more flavorful and has more opportunities for adventure.
Do Mind Flayers work in the same way on Eberron that they do in Forgotten Realms? As in need to eat a brain within a set time or die, yada yada and such. You’ve shown once with Xorchyllic that it isn’t the case and they can survive for a long time without brains but is that just him or all Mind Flayers?
No, I don’t think mind flayers work the same way in Eberron that they do in other settings. We’ve established that the mind flayers of Eberron are creations of Dyrrn the Corruptor—possibly originally created from Gith stock—and that the elder brains are essentially a network with Dyrrn at the center. Given that this already contradicts a range of other assumptions from other settings, I think it’s up to the DM to decide what else applies, as works best in their story. PERSONALLY, I say that while mind flayers ENJOY consuming brains, they can also literally consumed intense thoughts and emotions around them—that a mind flayer might torment a prisoner for ages before ending their suffering, because the pain itself is a source of sustenance.