Fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons is truly like a fine wine, getting better with age. Every day that goes by, something about D&D invigorates my creativity, inspires new ways to approach and play the game, and strengthens my belief that the current stewards of the game are manifesting a golden age for the worlds greatest roleplaying game.
Today, D&D players received a present in the form of the latest Unearthed Arcana, the series of official Wizards of the Coast playtest material, completely free from the D&D team.
We’ve already seen two offerings from previous UA content taken to the next level, with the artificer and mystic both available for free through the Dungeon Master’s Guild.
Coming in November, we’ll get over 25 (!!) new subclasses for the core Player’s Handbook classes included with a beholder crime lord’s horde of other awesome stuff in Xanathar’s Guide to Everything.
And today we got a real treat with two new races for D&D: the eladrin and the gith.
As a D&D player who most enjoys when games get weird, the latest UA leapt right off the page and into my imagination. Eladrin of the Feywild have been one of my favorite races since fourth edition D&D and the star-pact initiate paladin of Sehanine i played. And gith are an amazing part of D&D lore and history, most notably being connected to the Astral Sea. Also they’re one of many races formerly enslaved and changed through their relationship to illithid.
Just in time for the undisputed best time of year, autumn will be greeted with the seasonal-themed eladrin subrace for elves. As D&D Beyond’s terrific Todd Kenreck brought us with the recent D&D’s Shadowfell and Feywild Explained video, the D&D team puts no small amount of thought into creating and developing not only their campaign settings on the prime material plane, but also the plethora of connecting extradimensional planes.
In the video, Mike Mearls explains the Feywild in more detail, as a place of unbridled emotions. Along those same lines, the UA eladrin include an incredibly flavorful mechanic tied to the seasons of the year.
The first thing i thought of was my great fondness for Changeling: The Dreaming from White Wolf. Although i only got a chance to play that game a couple of times back in the 90s, a great many hours were spent reading through it and being whisked away on flights of fancy to the fey realms.
In the UA, the eladrin connection to the seasons is represented by two very cool mechanics. The Four Seasons presents a summary of distinct personality traits related to autumn, winter, spring and summer, with a list of personality traits for each. This way your eladrin character can represent the fey and fickle nature of their people.
“Autumn is the season of peace and goodwill, when summer’s harvest is shared with all. Eladrin adopt this personality when overcome with contentment.” – from Unearthed Arcana: Eladrin and Gith
To represent this season, an eladrin might be dedicated to helping anyone in need, sharing selflessly of what they have, enjoying sumptuous meals or stockpiling decadent foods. In addition to these interesting character quirks that can change whenever powerful emotions are elicited, there is another seasonal feature with a mechanical benefit.
Shifting Seasons allows the eladrin to align themselves with a particular season after any short or long rest. Doing so gives access to a cantrip, the magic associated with the season. For autumn eladrin, friends gives them the opportunity to foster the peace and goodwill exemplified by Four Seasons. Granted, the peace and goodwill wears off after a minute and then the creature becomes hostile towards the caster. But the way eladrin are masterfully presented here, this is the first time i’ve felt like friends actually makes sense to cast. Fey are fickle, after all.
Aside from the seasonal-themed racial traits, get a standard ability score increase – in this case the player’s choice of Intelligence or Charisma. And thankfully they retain the wonderful Fey Step ability that, to me, is a signature power of eladrin.
On another side of the planar divide, gith join the growing list of unusual playable races in D&D, bringing with them a ton of lore and history referenced in the Monster Manual. As a base race, gith get a bonus to Intelligence and that’s about it aside from base walking speed and their own language. Both subraces get their own distinct flavors of gith psionics. Squee!
There are two subraces of gith: brutal warrior githyanki and contemplative githzerai. The latter get a bump to Strength, an extra language, and some armor proficiency. The githyanki psionics take the form of spells along the same lines as drow elves and tieflings. Mage hand, jump and misty step represent the physical focus of their psionic power, allowing them to manipulate objects and their own bodies through force of will.
The githyankis more zen-like counterparts, githzerai get a bump to Wisdom, and an as-yet untyped bonus to Armor Class. This feature might need to be reworded in a revised edition. For psionics, the githzerai receives mage hand, shield and detect thoughts.
Both of these new races for D&D make me super excited for several reasons. The eladrin evoke fond memories and nostalgia of not only a beloved former character but also the peak of human cultural civilization in the 1990s.
As for the gith, they’ve fascinated me since that intriguing appearance on the cover of the Fiend Folio and right up through to today where a githzerai monk joined the crew of my players’ spelljammer ship…or did she? They actually don’t know for certain whether their one-time ally accompanies them or her identical daughter.
Both of these extraplanar races further make me feel like we’re getting closer and closer to whatever form Spelljammer will take in D&D 5E. A popular theory postulates that spelljamming vessels will travel the Astral Sea between planes and dimensions, and as a means to traverse the galaxy to other planets by taking shortcuts through the various planes. Whatever, Wizards of the Coast. Just gimme that sweet, sweet Spelljammer.
Besides, how dangerous could that be? It worked perfectly fine in Event Horizon.
How about you? Do the eladrin and gith got you all extraplanarly excited?