This is a snapshot copy of Planewalker before our recent database crash. Please go to www.planewalker.com for the current site.

Githyanki Martial Tradition – Part 1. Mentality

Announcement!

We have moved to new, and hopefully better hardware! Along with this move came a bunch of updates to our code base. Please let me know if you spot something wonky.

Dunamin's picture

“Never kill a worthy foe casually, young ones. Plunge your blade hilt-deep in his chest while shouting your defiance to his face, lock eyes with him, and watch the vitality rapidly drain away until there is but the faintest flicker of life left. Then you twist.”

- Rev’keth, varsh overseer

It cannot be understated how central combat and warfare is to githyanki culture and mindset. The way it defines the way they think, the way they act, and the way their society is structured is nearly all-encompassing. Though many of them may find themselves devoted to aspects of life with little martial focus or stationed well removed from the front lines of planar skirmishes, all giths with a traditional imperial upbringing are soldiers in spirit through and through.

Strict imperial training usually starts as soon as the resident varsh caretaker deems the young capable of holding a sword properly. All juveniles are taught the traditional sword fighting style of vertoth*, but those that go on to become elite soldiers often have the opportunity to add more specialized techniques to their repertoire and learn to master additional arms.

Githyanki warriors engage nearly exclusively in close combat, putting a great deal of importance on facing the opposition head on. In stark contrast to the Great Enemy – mind flayers – that operates through veil, deception, and intermediates, giths feel need for confrontation to be resolved face-to-face, in person, and with no pretense.

That is not to say they charge in and lock their positions during combat – an assaulting warband will typically shift around the battlefield, taking up advantageous footholds when there is significant tactical gain. Engagement with ranged weapons from far off is frowned on as a less honorable approach, however, but practiced as a necessary evil when the situation calls for it.

This attitude also provides part of the reason why shields play little role in githyanki martial traditions. Giths are aggressive creatures and the vast majority prefer offensive tactics that prevent the use of a shield.

It is likely one of their greatest strategic weaknesses, since this disposition historically has downplayed the use of phalanx formation in military campaigns on prime material worlds. On the Astral, however, tactics of locked shields are harder to pull off due to the greater mobility and ability to engage a target from all around - noteworthy exceptions include the "shield-sphere" formation employed by kith'rak Vrekuth during the Liberation of Fortress Nor'mujin.

***

“The supreme commander was like a mighty psychic storm given focus. Brutal, raging, and uncompromising. When she cleaved through the hordes it was a beautiful orchestra of death and destruction.”

- Thael’a’lith, sarth of the Pure Alloy

True veterans attain a deeply philosophical relation to fencing, one that is reflected in githyanki culture on many levels. Combat becomes an immensely aesthetic and emotional art form, and giths will typically judge their peers heavily on how they express themselves in battle during their first operations together. When it comes to leaving impressions on a ranking brother in arms, lack of skill and experience can often be compensated somewhat by a passionate and personally appealing fighting style.

A seasoned gith warrior in the heat of battle displays an exercise of focused fury. All the hatreds that are so central to their history, all the anger that he or she has been taught from imperial lore, all these emotions are tempered by a lifetime of extreme disciple and channeled from their mind and heart, through their sword arm, and delivered at the point of their blade.

*Vertoth and other githyanki fighting styles will be explored in Githyanki Martial Tradition - Part 3

Azriael's picture
Offline
factotums
Joined: 2006-08-07
I really like where you're

I really like where you're going with this although I'm not sure about how magic and psionics fit in with the aversion towards ranged combat. From memory Githyanki view all three as being different, but equal tools.

Overall I really liked the piece though and I'm looking forward to the rest of the series.

Also, I think you meant 'overstated' in the first line.

__________________

"We're making a better world. All of them, better worlds." - Anonomous Harmonium Officer

Zimrazim's picture
Offline
Factol
Joined: 2007-01-14
Agree that this describes

Agree that this describes the prevailing cultural mentality. There are, however, individuals and even entire groups within githyanki society that don't entirely ascribe to it. While the "sneaky thinker" archetype as described in the Complete Fighter's Handbook is probably uncommon among githyanki as a whole, I would expect this archetype to be more common among the Silver Eyes, the Reconciliation, and a few of the Orders.  (Not to mention that githyanki do have specialist archers, rogues, bards, rangers, and so on.)

Sun Tzu quote: "All warfare is based on deception. Hence, when able to attack, we must seem unable...Feign disorder, and crush him....Pretend to be weak, that he may grow arrogant..." I think that there exists at least a minority of cultural opinion that adheres to this philosophy; this may be a point of contention between the most hotheaded githwarriors and older and more wily battlefield commanders. I would suggest that while githyanki are capable of very sophisticated battlefield deceptions, many githyanki may find some of them distasteful -- especially if they involve seeming weak or cowardly or reduce a githyanki's chances for great individual glory.

'Dunamin' wrote:
It is likely one of their greatest strategic weaknesses, since this disposition historically has downplayed the use of phalanx formation in military campaigns on prime material worlds.

The greatsword really is an excellent choice of weapon for the Astral Plane, but I wonder what formations and weapons the githyanki are most likely to use when in the Underdark. If I were an illithid, I'd take pains to prefer narrow tunnels where swinging a two-handed sword is impossible.

As for mages and psions, I would guess that a higher percentage of them are very straightforward "blasters" compared to, say, humans (though not all, of course).

__________________

BoGr Guide to Missile Combat:
1) Equip a bow or crossbow.
2) Roll a natural 1 on d20.
3) ?????
4) Profit!

Dunamin's picture
Offline
Factor
Joined: 2006-06-13
Thanks for the input! Yes,

Thanks for the input! Yes, that was supposed to be "overstated", not "understated".

 

Azriael wrote:

I really like where you're going with this although I'm not sure about how magic and psionics fit in with the aversion towards ranged combat. From memory Githyanki view all three as being different, but equal tools.

Zimrazim wrote:

As for mages and psions, I would guess that a higher percentage of them are very straightforward "blasters" compared to, say, humans (though not all, of course).

The 2nd installment will involve psionic application to martial prowess, but I did not intend to address magic and psionics more than superficially. Offhand I would think the majority of gith mages and psionicists also prefer to be somewhat in the heat of things and using aggressive direct powers, though not necessarily at the fray or opposed to more subtle tricks.

Zimrazim wrote:

Agree that this describes the prevailing cultural mentality. There are, however, individuals and even entire groups within githyanki society that don't entirely ascribe to it. While the "sneaky thinker" archetype as described in the Complete Fighter's Handbook is probably uncommon among githyanki as a whole, I would expect this archetype to be more common among the Silver Eyes, the Reconciliation, and a few of the Orders.

Sun Tzu quote: "All warfare is based on deception. Hence, when able to attack, we must seem unable...Feign disorder, and crush him....Pretend to be weak, that he may grow arrogant..." I think that there exists at least a minority of cultural opinion that adheres to this philosophy; this may be a point of contention between the most hotheaded githwarriors and older and more wily battlefield commanders. I would suggest that while githyanki are capable of very sophisticated battlefield deceptions, many githyanki may find some of them distasteful -- especially if they involve seeming weak or cowardly or reduce a githyanki's chances for great individual glory.

Most of the basic approaches to strategy in war should certainly hold true for githyanki, but I think there's precedent that they sacrifice a noteworthy share of efficiency for the sake of principles and tradition. They present a terrifying war machine, but not a war machine as effective as it could be - because in order to become that they might have to compromise some values that largely defines them.

Sure, giths use diversions, lay sieges, and employ strategies where relatively “weak” forces are presented to bait the opposition into a disadvantageous position. However, honor-fixation probably means they don’t make tactical retreats as often as they should, or recruit local populace and use them as cannon fodder.

Samloyal23's picture
Offline
Namer
Joined: 2004-05-25
Re: Githyanki Martial Tradition – Part 1. Mentality

Githyanki employ psionics and magic mainly for communication, to co-ordinate attacks, and as personal enhancement to improve attack and defense, instead of using it to directly attack an enemy at a distance. Think Bull's Strength and Protection from Normal Missiles instead of Fireball. Intelligence gathering and control of terrain is also important, especially off the Astral.

__________________

I'm Samuel M. Wright, and you're not.

Planescape, Dungeons & Dragons, their logos, Wizards of the Coast, and the Wizards of the Coast logo are ©2008, Wizards of the Coast, a subsidiary of Hasbro Inc. and used with permission.