For the month of September we are presented with new race options.
We get the Eladrin as an Elf subrace, and the Gith with their two subraces, the Githyanki and the Githzerai. None of them are new in Dungeons & Dragons, with the Eladrin even being a core race in 4th Edition.
Eladrin are elves native to the Feywild. A distinct characteristic they have is that, while creatures of the Feywild represent one emotion to its extreme, Eladrin represent all emotions. This is reflected mechanically through having their personality traits change based on the seasons.
This isn’t the first time we see the Eladrin in 5th Edition. It is used as an example in the Dungeon Master’s Guide on how to create a subrace(page 285 for anyone interested). Let’s see what has changed.
- Ability Score Increase. You get a +1 to your Intelligence or Charisma score. The Dungeon Master’s Guide version didn’t have the option of a +1 to your Charisma score. I believe this has been changed to make them a bit more different than High Elves. This is a good change because now the Eladrin can be a very good choice if you want to play any type of Arcane spellcaster. Flavor wise this also makes sense. Eladrin are creatures of magic but also the Charisma option can be also seen as the effect the seasons have on them.
- Fey Step. The effect is the same with the DMG version of the Eladrin, which is the misty step spell. However, it’s not a spell anymore and it costs your bonus action. I believe this is an upgrade because, since this effect is not considered a spell anymore, you now can cast a non cantrip spell with your action. The fact that it recharges with short rests makes it quite good.
- Shifting Seasons. The flavor of the seasons affecting the Eladrin is also present in this feature. It allows you to choose between four available cantrips at the end of every long rest. I like that the flavor affects the mechanics of the race. What I also like is that what you pick isn’t affected by the current season, which makes the feature more versatile. It’s not necessary that you will get to go through all of these cantrips, because they’re all good and you will probably pick a couple of them from your class anyway, but it’s nice to have them available.
Shifting Seasons has replaced Elf Weapon Training. I don’t think it’s a problem because Fey Step is really good and something had to be removed for the subrace to be more balanced. Also, since the features of the Eladrin urge you to play them as some sort of Arcane caster, it’s less probable you will have to use the weapons from Elf Weapon Training. In case you really need to play an Elf caster with weapon proficiencies the High-Elf is always available.
Since we saw the Aasimar, another example in the DMG, get their place in Volo’s Guide to Monsters, I was expecting to see the Eladrin at some point. It’s not in an official book but the Unearthed Arcana installments are the way for them to reach that place.
Gith have a really cool lore. They were slaves of the Illithids but managed to free themselves and now they hunt them wherever and whenever they can. The two subraces are very different culturally. You can get a lot of information by reading their entry in the Monster Manual.
The Gith get most of their features through their subraces. In fact, only three features have any relevant mechanical impact.
- Ability Score Increase. You get a +1 to your Intelligence score.
- Speed. Your base walking speed is 30 feet. Regular stuff.
- Languages. You can speak, read, and write Common and Gith. Nothing special.
- Age. Gith mature like humans and live a little more than them
- Size. A bit taller and leaner than humans.
Now let’s move to the subraces, where the fun begins.
Githyanki have a strict martial leadership and are a lot more warlike than the Githzerai.
- Ability Score Increase. Your Strength score increases by 2. Nothing special here. A +2 was expected since the race gives a +1.
- Alignment. Githyanki are usually lawful evil with some exceptions being closer to chaos.
- Decadent Mastery. You get to learn one language and gain proficiency with a tool or skill of your choice. There are no restrictions on what you can choose, which can grant a bit more versatility. I like the story behind this feature. Since the city of the Githyanki, Tu’narath, is timeless they have the chance acquire odd bits of knowledge.
- Martial Prodigy. You are proficient with light and medium armor. The only time this can be relevant is when you want to have medium armor on a caster. I can argue that you can have heavy armor on a caster, with options only from the PHB so medium armor isn’t that impressive. The +2 on the Strength score is hinting you to play something less squishy anyway.
- Githyanki Psionics. You can cast the Mage Hand cantrip. On level 3, you can cast the spell Jump once every long rest. On level 5, you can cast the spell Misty Step once every long rest. Mage Hand is a handy(that was unintended, sort of) cantrip, but its usefulness depends on the situation and the imagination of the player. Jump becomes a secondary choice once you get Misty Step, but it’s good to have it because they have once per long rest uses.
To be honest, I’m not very impressed by the Githyanki. Decadent Mastery is okay. I usually like features that give some extra utility. Martial Prodigy is irrelevant, in my opinion. Githyanki Psionics tries to give some extra mobility and it succeeds. However, I’d prefer if the 5th level spell didn’t completely overshadow the 3rd level one.
These are the cool headed cousins of the Githyanki. They are disciplined and have become the best monks in the multiverse. However, that doesn’t mean they don’t hate the Illithids. They have special hunting parties for them.
- Ability Score Increase. Your Wisdom score increases by 2.
- Alignment. Githzerai tend toward lawful neutral. As I said, they are cool headed.
- Monastic Training. You gain a +1 bonus to AC if you aren’t wearing medium or heavy armor and not using a shield. Compared to the Martial Prodigy of the Githyanki, that’s huge. So many characters can profit from this. in fact, any Dexterity based character is much better with this feature. The no shield rule isn’t a problem because you can either dual wield or use a two handed weapon.
- Githzerai Psionics. You can cast the Mage Hand cantrip, just like with Githyanki Psionics. The 3rd level spell is Shield and the 5th level one is Detect Thoughts. I hope we can all agree that these spells are really better than the ones granted by Githyanki Psionics. First of all, the 5th level spell doesn’t make the 3rd level one redundant, though it can easily create problems for the DM. Moreover, I don’t think anyone would ever say no to being able to cast Shield once per long rest.
Overall, the Githzerai are hands down better than the Githyanki, when it comes to subrace features. Martial Prodigy is nowhere near good as Monastic Training and the spells from Githzerai Psionics are, as a whole, better than the ones from Githyanki Psionics. You may argue that the Githzerai don’t get any utility features but that isn’t enough to balance the two subraces at this point.
Maybe some of the subrace features should be moved up, get modified, and become racial features. There’s a lot of room for changes, because all the key features are in the subraces at the moment.
Mechanics aside, I’m happy to see them as a playable race. I really like their lore and I’d like to see them in a book at some point. However, this could mean the possibility of seeing a book with planar travel as its theme. I know it’s a long shot, but nothing is impossible.
This was a short Unearthed Arcana, and its analysis didn’t take much time to write, thankfully. I say thankfully because I’ve injured my arm and it isn’t easy for me to do pretty much anything with it. I hope we get to see the next versions of these race options soon.
You can read the full article here and download the PDF here. Also, you should check out this video of Mike Mearls talking about this Unearthed Arcana. I really hope this is going to be a thing for the future installments as well.