To Chance with Hell (Planescape)
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Like their cousins, the githyanki, the githzerai are the descendants of ancient humans enslaved by the Illithid Empire eons ago. After Gith led their people to freedom, a warrior known as Zerthimon rose up to oppose her, warning that she would lead them into an evil just as great as the illithid. A civil war between those loyal to Gith and the followers of Zerthimon began, eventually resulting in the two sides splitting into the githyanki and githzerai. They have sworn to never be enslaved again by anyone, and all githzerai are taught to protect their freedom and that of their people above all else.
Personality: The githzerai as a rule are grim and serious to the point of being humorless. Smiles are rare, laughs are rarer, and tears are rarest of all on a githzerai’s face; they are the bane of artists, bards, and jesters everywhere. They do not speak often, preferring to remain silent rather than waste words over meaningless issues. Though not as paranoid as the githyanki, they live cautiously, trusting few nongithzerai and are always mindful of their wars with the githyanki and illithid. Their greatest fear is that they will somehow be enslaved again, thus githzerai view just about everything as a form of oppression that they must fight against.
Physical Description: Githzerai were once human, but the crucibles of enslavement, war, and survival in Limbo have forged a new form for them. Standing roughly six feet tall and weighing around 150 pounds, githzerai would be distinct from their forebears even without their unmistakable sharp features and piercing, yellow-gray eyes. Their skin is pulled tightly and has a dark yellow color to it. Some cannot tell the difference between a githyanki and a githzerai, though the distinctions are clear and few make the mistake twice. In sharp contrast to the baroque ornateness of githyanki, the githzerai favor extreme simplicity. Dark, drab earth tones prevail, even more so in their monasteries, and voluminous cloaks are common – especially over light armor. Like the githyanki, the githzerai are an egg-laying species due to the horrific mutations made while enslaved by the illithids.
Relations: As a rule, the githzerai seem to interact best with themselves, and the harshness of Limbo has done little to discourage this introversion. While they normally deal with other races politely, githzerai have been trained from birth for generations to be wary of anything as a potential threat. It is difficult to earn their respect, and even harder to gain their trust. Few would say that githzerai make good friends, but they are good companions to have at one’s back. They hold a deep and powerful hatred towards both the githyanki and the mind flayers, who they actively hunt across the planes. Despite their obsession with personal freedom, their greatest loyalty lies to their people, and they will never reveal information that could be used against them.
Alignment: Githzerai exhibit an odd combination of order and chaos. They are all extremely independent, believing that no one has the right to choose their path for them, and thus enslave them. Most githzerai are as chaotic as the Limbo they call home; their rejection of githyanki legalism in part guided their decision to colonize the plane of primordial chaos. Likewise, they reject the predation and callousness so prevalent amongst githyanki, although they make neither claims nor efforts to goodness. Yet as much as they value personal freedom, githzerai society instills both rigid discipline and complete loyalty to the entire race. Such are the necessities of war.
Githzerai Lands: Eons separated from the world where first they originated, the githzerai have adopted the plane of Limbo as their home. A loose alliance of cities, fortresses and castles – as well as a vast number of monasteries, reflecting an equally vast number of teachings – hold their ever-shifting domains in the plane of ultimate chaos. Occasionally, however, a party of illithid hunters known as rrakkma will establish a stronghold on the Material Plane during an especially long hunt, laying waste to the surrounding landscape until a predetermined number of mind flayers have been slain.
Beliefs: The githzerai do not know the gods. They have no pantheon, and no religion has ever held sway over more than a handful of their kind. However, their culture is saturated with the image of their liberator and greatest hero, Zerthimon, and many githzerai hold a deep reverence for his legacy that borders on faith. The god-king, Zaerith Menyar-ag-Githzerai, grants his subjects more freedom than the githyanki’s lich-queen ever did. The githzerai are free to keep company with whatever faction they may, and some (most notably Karan of the Xaositects) have risen in the ranks to great prestige. Their continued freedom, and that of their people, will always be the most important values of the githzerai, and all other ideals and loyalties come second.
Language: The githzerai’s language draws heavily on history, mythology, and the epics of their greatest heroes, using metaphor and Zerthimon’s words frequently and powerfully. Despite ages in isolation, the spoken language is still close enough to githyanki that the two races, were they to speak instead of slaughter, could make sense of each other. All githzerai are well versed in Planar Trade as well, recognizing the importance of being able to deal peacefully with other races.
Names: Githzerai names are often given to them by the leaders of their community, and normally have an even number of syllables.
Female Names: Atlor, Beezil, Jebeel, Karsten, Moraan, Narniss
Male Names: Arstimis, Karan, Leggis, Yangol, Zegonz
Adventurers: Many githzerai take to wandering the planes, for many reasons. Some roam far and wide in the endless war against the mind flayers and githyanki; others are dispatched across the multiverse in their monastic training; and still others travel for gold and glory, just like any other race in the multiverse. In almost every case, however – no matter what the reason – their adventuring includes the defense of the githzerai.
Roleplaying a Githzerai: Remember Zerthimon, always – there is nothing in your existence without a parallel in his. Live freely, in emulation of him, and act that githzerai may forever live freely in emulation of him. In every pair of eyes that you meet look deeply at what you see – and if you see in their eyes a tyrant, an enemy, an enslaver; then remember the illithids. Remember Gith. Remember Zerthimon – and never regret the blood on your blade. Underestimate nobody. Never cry; pain is the forsaking of weakness. In the crucible of pain, you are made strong, that you may forever live free. Broken bones heal forever unbreakable; so too shall you. These are the words of Zerthimon; his words are all words; his life is all life.