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The description of the Gith, particularly the Githyanki portrays them as them deadly, implacable enemies of Mind Flayers, so much so that they took down the unbelievably vast and powerful ancient Illithid empire, and all but exterminated the brain-eaters.

Yet looking at their game stats in the Monster Manual reveals no major advantage the Githyanki possess. The average Githyanki is a CR 3, while their elite knights are CR 8. The average Mind Flayer is a CR 7, but has some pretty effective psionic powers compared to the Gith, who don't seem to have any particular resistance vs them. If you add in the variations and powers revealed in Volo's Guide, the Mind Flayers are even more formidable as a group.

Is there a description of the tactics the Gith employ against Mind Flayers that would allow them to all but exterminate them? They don't seem that mismatched, but the impression one gets from the text is that the Gith are the scourge of the Illithid.

I'm looking for either a game or game fiction source that describes how one race can so dominate the other despite only a tiny variance in stats. I would accept answers based on actual play experience, particularly if they point out some major factor I am missing.

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The Githyanki had the help of Tiamat and the Red Dragons

In MM pg 159, it is mentioned that the githyanki are Red Dragon Riders -- that, in the uprising wherein they overthrew their Illithid masters, their leader Gith's advisor, Vlaakith (their now lich-queen ruler), sought the help of Tiamat. As a result of these dealings, Tiamat's partner Ephelomon accompanied Gith back into the Astral Plane, declaring that all of his allies will be allies of the githyanki as well, forever.

Not all Red Dragons honor this alliance, but at least, most of them don't consider githyanki as enemies. And it is strongly implied that even to this day, githyanki are still Red Dragon Riders.

The githyanki plunder countless worlds from the decks of their astral vessels and the backs of red dragons.

Note the bolded word is in present tense. They are still plundering countless worlds from the backs of red dragons.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Thanks, I had read the red dragon bit, but missed that quoted sentence. Without it, the passage read as if the alliance were a thing of the past, though still honored through non-aggression. It still doesn't explain how they can use their draconic allies in the Underdark, but it's a good fact to consider. \$\endgroup\$ – keithcurtis Jun 6 '17 at 13:30
  • \$\begingroup\$ @keithcurtis Weren't the githzeri at least partly involved in the initial uprising? That might explain a bit of the psychic/magical support to the githyanki. \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Jun 6 '17 at 16:39
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    \$\begingroup\$ From what I understand, it was after the uprising that the split occurred. The ones who would become the Githyanki wanted to continue the conquest they had started and spread it to other races, while those who would become the Githzerai wanted only to finish off the Illithid and then retreat from the world in general. Both races want to kill Illithid, but in 5e at least, the Githzerai are not significantly different from their cousins. They have psionic-based armor, and both have psionic-based spell casting. \$\endgroup\$ – keithcurtis Jun 6 '17 at 19:12
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It's also canon that the Githyanki are happy to use magic and magic items, whereas most Illithids regard magic as taboo. Magic tends to have a longer range than psionics so Githyanki cavalry (dragonback) attacks make even more sense. "Fireball the whole planet from orbit. It's the only way to be sure"

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    \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to RPG.SE Matthew. Please take the tour and visit the help center to see how the SE Q&A format works best. (you'll get some more badges). This format calls for supported answers; please edit / revise your answer to include support for the points that you are making (be it from previous edition lore, 5e lore, Mordenkainen's Tome of Foes ... what have you). Thanks for participating and have fun. \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Nov 30 '18 at 17:46
  • \$\begingroup\$ How did their willingness to use magic items make them especially effective against mind flayers, compared to any other enemy of the mind flayers? \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Dec 1 '18 at 1:02
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They had far superior numbers, even if one of them is not a match for a mind flayer, but with enough working together they overwhelmed them.

source mind flayers

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Rather than merely sourcing a YouTube video that claims to be about D&D lore, this answer would be improved by referencing official sources that support the claim. Regardless, you need to elaborate on your point, and perhaps explain how their superior numbers made them especially effective against mind flayers compared to any other enemy of the mind flayers. \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Dec 1 '18 at 1:01

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