Why did the Githzerai change?

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Why did the Githzerai change?

Postby zontoxira » Sat Nov 25, 2017 10:16 pm

I'm really keen on finding the reasons behind the drastic change of the githzerai, especially during the transition from 2e to 3e and later.
1e and 2e, particularly Planescape, visualised the githzerai as Chaotic Neutral creatures, very human-like (with sharp, eastern asiatic features). They also made for wizard classes, despite rules for psionics (Psionics Handbook, Skills and Powers) having been already published.
3e presented them more closely to githyanki, bearing the same alien appearance. This time they were more inclined to psionics and the monk class, and could be any Neutral alignment (was that meant to be X Neutral, Neutral X, or any combination thereof?).
4e changed their alignment to Unaligned, and moved them to the Plane of Elemental Chaos.
5e returned them to Limbo, stressed their monastic life, and switched their alignment to Lawful Neutral.

Clearly, the two main changes of the githzerai were their appearance and alignment.
For the former, I can imagine the effort to make githzerai and githyanki actually look like they originated from the same human race. But then, the human species can be so different nowadays (compare a Dane to a Mongolian to an Aboriginal for instance). A note of worth, however: Githyanki and githzerai of Planescape, as drawn by DiTerlizzi, had some similarities, but they looked distinct nevertheless (a good comparison is in A Guide to the Astral Plane, pp 60-61, reproduced here: githzerai vs. githyanki)
As for the latter, why so many changes? Looks like the designers couldn't decide on which alignment they should settle down. LN to me sounds as if they wanted to explain the orderly, monastic life, but no. Essential part of the githzerai philosophy is individual freedom - while being loyal to their race and leaders, githzerai value their independence and can even come at odds with their peers (see the case of Dak'kon).

PS: I'm posting this here, because I don't think such question fits any setting or edition. Correct me if I'm wrong.
PS2: This might be the beginning of "why did [insert race or monster] change" series, since I have similar questions for other races/monsters, too.
PS3: Everything comes in threes, no?
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Re: Why did the Githzerai change?

Postby Boneguard » Sat Nov 25, 2017 10:49 pm

Actually all of these elements existed back when they were created in 1st edtion.

The Relation between Githyanki and Githzerai:
AD&D 1st Edition Fiend Folio p.45 wrote:The githyanki-githzerai warfare is curious since they are both offshoots of the original race released from mind flayer bondage under the leadership of Gith - yet the war is vicious and long-enduring.


The monastic life style:
AD&D 1st Edition Fiend Folio p.45 wrote:[...]githzerai are monastic creatures, their weapons are very plain and their magic-use economic of movement and direct in effect.


Magic Use
AD&D 1st Edition Fiend Folio p.45 wrote:[...]They have the same sort of political organisation as have the githyanki and are ruled by an undying wizard-king said to be of 16th/23rd level of fighting/magic-user who prevents githzerai progression beyond the 9th level of experience.


And the Psionics
AD&D 1st Edition Fiend Folio p.45 wrote:All githzerai have the following psionic abilities at the 6th level of mastery: astral projection, mind bar, probability travel and energy control. Their psionic powers are highly developed, with all attack/defence modes
.

So making them CN Wizards in 2nd edition Planescape made sense as not everyone used the Psionic rules, whereas Wizards were a core class.

Why the change from 3rd onward, I'm not sure.
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Re: Why did the Githzerai change?

Postby zontoxira » Sat Nov 25, 2017 11:06 pm

Boneguard wrote:Very constructive reminder of things


Thanks for reminding me of all those, seems I forgot to mention that. I know of their relations, the monastic life, and the use of magic and psionics since 1e. The addition of the monk and psionic classes was a neat thing in 3e, but as far as I know, githzerai weren't intended to show up as kung fu masters; perhaps this monastic life was oriented (no pun here) towards western monasticism.
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Re: Why did the Githzerai change?

Postby Boneguard » Sun Nov 26, 2017 1:41 am

zontoxira wrote:[...] The addition of the monk and psionic classes was a neat thing in 3e, but as far as I know, githzerai weren't intended to show up as kung fu masters; perhaps this monastic life was oriented (no pun here) towards western monasticism.


Considering that the monk class was also part of 1st ed and that the Githzerai entry in Fiend Folio did not include the class as a possibility (which was technically impossible being Chaotic Neutral), I do believe you may have a valid point in regards to the type of monasticism.

The Eastern Monk image doesn't seem to fit, but a western militant monk style order (as Fighter/Magic-User were present) that fpcus on study, ritual and efficient fighting technique would fit.
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Re: Why did the Githzerai change?

Postby zontoxira » Sun Nov 26, 2017 1:59 pm

In the end, I don't mind githzerai picking up the monk class now, it suits them fine I'd say. It's just the process behind the changes in appearance and alignment that make me wonder.
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Re: Why did the Githzerai change?

Postby ripvanwormer » Sun Nov 26, 2017 4:02 pm

The 3rd edition design team gave Sam Wood free reign to redesign a lot of monsters. Harpies lost their feathers, kobolds got more lizardy, halflings and gnomes became more slender, etc. I don’t think there’s much thought behind it other than "Sam Wood drew a sketch and Peter Atkinson, Monte Cook, Jonathan Tweet, and Skip Williams liked it."

3rd edition made githzerai look more alien and more clearly related to githyanki. It's not better--I'm a huge fan of Tony DiTerlizzi's illustrations, and I like how Dak'kon looks in Planescape: Torment--but the 3e redesign is destinctive and works well enough that no one's tried to change it back.

I think it was Bruce Cordell who shifted the githzerai's focus from freedom-obsessed chaotic neutral raiders with a tyrannical wizard-king to more lawful monks who live in small independent monasteries in the middle of chaos. Not only was the wizard-king mostly dropped from canon (I think the Manual of the Planes mentioned him and he disappeared after that) but the githzerai cities Shr'akt'lor and the Floating City disappeared as well. I can see the reasoning here. As much as I love them, 2e githzerai were kind of a mess of contradictions, obsessed with freedom but worshiping a tyrant, chaotic yet famously severe, with a caste system (alignment debates are annoying and I don't intend to get into one here; I'm trying to see the reasoning, not agreeing with it). Making them monks in small independent communities made them less blatant parallels of their githyanki cousins and gave them their own distinct niche in the game.

Regardless of whether or not Charles Stross intended them to belong to the actual monk class when he created them, they were referred to as "monastic" and that's clearly the inspiration for their 3e reboot. Rules-breaking chaotic neutral monks wouldn't be out of character for the gith races, considering the githyanki were evil "paladins."
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Re: Why did the Githzerai change?

Postby Illuminatus » Sun Nov 26, 2017 5:20 pm

ripvanwormer wrote:As much as I love them, 2e githzerai were kind of a mess of contradictions,


I suspect that all those alignment contradictions dating back to the original 1e monster were the root cause for why this monster cried out for a reboot. I know they always struck me as "broken" for this reason. If I had ever used them back in the 1e/2e days, I would have house-ruled them as Lawful Neutrals from Acheron.
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Re: Why did the Githzerai change?

Postby zontoxira » Tue Nov 28, 2017 12:45 am

ripvanwormer wrote:The 3rd edition design team gave Sam Wood free reign to redesign a lot of monsters. Harpies lost their feathers, kobolds got more lizardy, halflings and gnomes became more slender, etc. I don’t think there’s much thought behind it other than "Sam Wood drew a sketch and Peter Atkinson, Monte Cook, Jonathan Tweet, and Skip Williams liked it."

I must assume then that most of the changes in 3e were based on redrawn monster sketches. To be honest, one of the reasons I didn't like 3e was the art style.

ripvanwormer wrote:I think it was Bruce Cordell who shifted the githzerai's focus from freedom-obsessed chaotic neutral raiders with a tyrannical wizard-king to more lawful monks who live in small independent monasteries in the middle of chaos. Not only was the wizard-king mostly dropped from canon (I think the Manual of the Planes mentioned him and he disappeared after that) but the githzerai cities Shr'akt'lor and the Floating City disappeared as well. I can see the reasoning here. As much as I love them, 2e githzerai were kind of a mess of contradictions, obsessed with freedom but worshiping a tyrant, chaotic yet famously severe, with a caste system (alignment debates are annoying and I don't intend to get into one here; I'm trying to see the reasoning, not agreeing with it). Making them monks in small independent communities made them less blatant parallels of their githyanki cousins and gave them their own distinct niche in the game.

It makes sense. And it also fits the whole "enduring" mentality; they learn to persist in the ever-changing plane, and instill order within chaos.
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Re: Why did the Githzerai change?

Postby Big Mac » Tue Nov 28, 2017 11:30 am

I think the 4e art makes them look a bit more human. If they were going to make a D&D TV series with githzerai that would probably be the best look for them.

The 5e art keeps the "boosted colour quality" that really started with 3rd edition (when the artists didn't have to throttle back their talent to match printing processes), but returns to the shape of 1e and 2e artwork.

The D&D multiverse is a big place and I wonder if it would be possible to use the various dropped githzerai elements to build up githzerai clans that have broken away from each other, but that are still aligned together. That might be a way to use any adventure from any edition and somehow make the background elements all true.
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Re: Why did the Githzerai change?

Postby zontoxira » Tue Nov 28, 2017 3:32 pm

You've piqued my curiosity now Big Mac and made me have a look at all the githzerai art throughout the editions :mrgreen: So here's what we have:

1e Monster Manual (1977) had this little fella. This image (an amazing one, imo) shows the differences in art between a githyanki and a githzerai. **Note** I found it by chance, and couldn't resist sharing it with you. While it says Fiend Folio in the drawing, it doesn't seem to be in that book. Anyone knows about it?
2e Monstrous Compendium Outer Planes Appendix (1991) and Monstrous Manual (1993) depicted the githerai close to the 1e version. The two had a few differences (the Compendium had the githzerai B&W with one leg lifted, set against some background, whereas in MM it was coloured, standing, and without any background) but, generally, it was the same drawing. **Note** I just noticed, MC Outer Planes gives the pronunciation of githzerai as GIT-sir-eye. I always pronounced them as gith-ZER-eye or gith-zer-EYE, the latter perhaps due to spelling similarities with the Hebrew Ashmadai, Adonai, etc.
Planescape had this old fella. Skin tone was now yellowish, as well as facial features more asian (while the original looked more caucasian). It's worth noting Dak'kon's portrayal, from Planescape:Torment.
3e Monster Manual (actually, the revised 3.5 one, 2003, as the original 2000 one didn't include them) portrayed the githzerai like this. Their skin now turned to greenish, and were distinct from humans, more like skinny half-orcs with speckles. Just as rip mentioned earlier, Sam Wood's take was to be the standard form for all editions past 3rd. **Note** The githzerai first appeared, with this image, in the Psionics Handbook (2001), but would again appear in the Manual of the Planes (2001), and the Expanded Psionics Handbook (2004), albeit with different, clearly alien depictions.
4e Monster Manual (2008) had an image similar to 3e. However, githzerai in Player's Handbook 3 had a different, more human-like form (as Big Mac said).
5e Monster Manual, likewise, showed the githzerai nearly identical to Sam Wood's drawing, though with yellow skin.
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Re: Why did the Githzerai change?

Postby Big Mac » Sun Dec 10, 2017 5:40 pm

Don't forget the Pirates of Gith from Spelljammer.
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Re: Why did the Githzerai change?

Postby zontoxira » Sun Dec 10, 2017 7:03 pm

Whoa, almost forgot about them! And what's weird, these are LE fellas, without access to any psionics.
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Re: Why did the Githzerai change?

Postby Boneguard » Sun Dec 10, 2017 10:03 pm

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