Lich-Queen's Beloved

A Walk Through the Planes – Part 87: The Lich-Queen’s Beloved




In the context of today’s direct competition between Wizards of the Coast and Paizo, it can be weird to remember just how linked the two companies once were. Not only was Paizo made up largely of ex-Wizards employees, they also frequently collaborated with Wizards, and as a result everything that they released from 2002-2007 was just as “official” as anything by Wizards themselves. Their agreement with Wizards meant that Paizo had seemingly free reign to play in the worlds TSR had created over the past three decades, and what this new company did had a lasting effect on not just D&D but the roleplaying hobby in general. And while the company formed in 2002 to take over Wizards’ periodicals, it was really edition 3.5’s arrival a year later that saw Paizo come into its own. With this, it’s fitting that they did a huge blowout to usher in this new half-edition, including a crossover “event” of sorts that spanned Dragon, Dungeon, Polyhedron, and also Paizo’s website. There isn’t a proper name for this generally githyanki-themed set of releases, but I’m going to refer to it all as “The Lich-Queen’s Beloved,” as that’s the best-known part of this set, the pinnacle that largely ties it all together. 

As much as “Beloved” crossed over into everything Paizo published at the time, its feature in Dragon was far and away the least interesting, at least as far as this series is concerned. “Incursion” by James Wyatt focuses on a githyanki invasion on a Prime Material world and how to run a campaign around this concept. This includes information on how this might work in different worlds, or with characters of different levels, plus profiles of githyanki characters and even maps of githyanki ships, which the race has only recently figured out how to get functioning on the Prime Material Plane. That being said, the only new lore here concerns those ships, which are also covered in the tie-in issue of Polyhedron, and there they’re given a lot more detail. This article is ultimately a big what-if scenario, and while I’m a fan of the whole concept of a githyanki invasion and think Wyatt does a great job explaining step-by-step how this might occur and be run in/as a campaign, plus new feats, spells, and weapons, it’s all only peripherally planar, and were it not linked with the rest of these articles I would’ve skipped mentioning it altogether. Ultimately, the githyanki never did stage a massive attack against the Forgotten Realms or Greyhawk or any other world, so it’s all a bit speculative in nature.

Wayne Reynolds really defined the look of third edition (and 3.5’s) githyanki, and his work tends to be the best in this collection.

The article does, however, sort of lead directly into “Beloved,” with a section even noting that as a response to this attack players may wish to make a strike back at the Lich-Queen herself. Should they wish to do so, “Beloved” is a full-on, Christopher Perkins-penned adventure for characters of about level 18. On its own, it’s for the most part just a dungeon crawl, but at least it’s an excellent one, and as we’ll see in a bit there’s no reason it needs to be used on its own. “Beloved” also isn’t the type of planar adventure that feels like it could’ve been run on the Prime. The Lich-Queen’s headquarters is of course located on the Astral Plane, in fact it’s located on the head of the dead god the race’s largest city, Tu’narath, sits upon. That being said, the place has been shaken up a bit lately, which I do mean as a bad pun, as literal earthquakes have been wracking the place. Turns out this is because the Lich-Queen may be getting close to completing her quest to become a god, her scheme for which involves using countless wish spells to siphon power away from the city’s resident dead-deity. The earthquakes are a bad sign that this deification is imminent, or at least her new gang of half-dragon githyanki sure think so. 


For reasons relating to this, or perhaps a rebel alliance trying to forge peace with the githzerai, players decide to assault the Lich-Queen’s Palace of Whispers, a name resulting from the countless trapped souls stuck within its very walls who won’t stop whispering. Aside from all of the excellent background for this adventure, much of what makes it such a good planar campaign is that the Palace feels otherworldly. Doors are made out of ectoplasm, and the Lich-Queen has unhallowed the entire building. High level players may wish to scry here, but the building is warded from these, and at the same time while walls, ceilings, and floors can still be broken, they regenerate 10 hit points a round, and traveling through them with spells like passwall can cause insanity from the tormented souls within these surfaces. And oh yeah, there are also the gray mist doors, which attack people’s wills, and zombified doors, which are, well, portals filled with stretched flesh that’s still alive. In essence, the entire building feels terrifying and horrible, which is to say fitting for an evil race drifting through the nothingness of the multiverse. 

Hilariously, it’s quite possible for characters to almost immediately run into the Lich-Queen herself, in all her CR 25 glory, if they happen to go the wrong way. Even more hilariously, killing her doesn’t actually do that much, as she’s a lich. Most hilariously of all, what characters are told is her phylactery that needs to be destroyed is actually a decoy, with her actual phylactery being much more difficult to find and requiring the assembly of a four-part key and then a journey to within the dead god’s heart. Along the way, players will have to go inside an astral dreadnought’s decaying corpse (guess there must be more than one of them after all), evade a torture device known only as The Willgrinder, and come up against a two-headed, old red dragon, not to mention countless githyanki henchmen and new, weird githyanki variants like those half-dragons mentioned above and soul-sucked undead githynaki, who despite their fates remain devoted to their lich-queen. 

That being said, the quality of what appeared varied quite a bit, despite many illustrations being reused amongst the articles.

I may be wrong on this next point as I haven’t played through this myself, but the adventure feels difficult without being unfair. It’s also suitably epic, as assaulting this nearly godlike force should be. The only part of the adventure that I didn’t really like concerned the strangeness of this fortress being set up like a dungeon, which is to say not really reacting to your presence. The text states that the lich-queen tracks everyone inside and has knowledge of what they’re doing so long as she’s within the fortress as well… but there’s nothing here regarding how she actually reacts to the players. She controls armies, so you’d think that if her own phylactery were being threatened she’d respond, but apparently not? This seemed weird to me, but is also easily changed by a DM. In all, while it’s a higher level adventure than what I actually like to run, as with The Bastion of Broken Souls it was good enough that it still made me want to play through it. 

In addition to this adventure, Dungeon issue #100 was part of the strange period in which Polyhedron was part of Dungeon, such that if you flip and reverse the issue you’re left with issue #159 of its sister magazine. This means that in addition to the 42 pages devoted to “Beloved,” there’s an additional 41 Polyhedron pages spent on even more githyanki material, some of which even covers new ground. 

Christopher West’s cartography is fine, I suppose, but on the whole I really miss hand-drawn maps.

This “issue” of Polyhedron is divided into five chapters, meaning there’s plenty of room for both flavor and crunch. A bevy of new prestige classes are added, plus statistics for creating githyanki or duthka’gith characters (those half-red dragons) in this new-ish edition of D&D. More interesting to me, though, were sections focused on the githyanki’s culture and way of life. For instance, one part is devoted to githyanki religion, even though the race claims not to have one. All of this lore is built heavily from what came before, so little here will come as a surprise, but it’s still a nice clarification resource for the race and serves as a lengthy primer for pretty much everything you could hope to learn about them, besides perhaps some details of its empire in the Astral Plane (I’m still unclear how big this actually is). I give a slight demerit for the new monster entries being kind of lame, especially the half-dragon astral dreadnought b’kallash, but mostly this is a kind of mini-book on the species with most of the information about running a githyanki character or campaign you’d hope for. 


Like most (all?) of Paizo’s issues of Dragon and Dungeon magazines, you can still purchase this issue on their website though I should note that the digital version is lacking in two departments. One is that the final chapter of Polyhedron, which focuses on the invasion of a newly mentioned Prime, is removed. Sadly, this was one of the more noteworthy parts of the issue, as here it’s revealed that Pharagos is the Prime Material Plane the gith people originated from, and not only that it’s still (unexplainedly) home to a dead deity they used to worship. The Lich-Queen hopes to travel back there and suck this deity’s power back into herself as yet another scheme toward godhood, as well as “obliterating all evidence that her people ever gave reverence to anyone but her and her predecessors.” I have no idea why this entire chapter was later removed—perhaps because prior to now, their homeworld was unknown, and maybe someone wanted to retcon it back to unknown again in future supplements?—but that’s a rather big bit of lore to disappear. The other huge chunk that’s no longer available for sale was a poster-sized map of Tu’narath, which is especially a letdown given how important it is for one of the other releases in this collection, which had the strange fate of being both the best part of this entire set and also the most obscure. 

It’s not bad per se, but like a lot of fantasy art I don’t care for my god is this busy.

Christopher Perkins has noted himself in interviews that he tended to overwrite his adventures, at least back in the day. As such, I’m not sure if the “Tu’narath City Guide” published online by Paizo was a result of this, or if this PDF was commissioned separately, though it seems integral enough to the module that I tend to think it was originally one piece of writing. In any case, despite being nearly forgotten today, it’s also one of the fullest descriptions of a planar city ever published, filling up 35 pages of material that makes it easy to set a campaign in this miserable githyanki city. This was in fact Paizo’s first attempt at digital self-publishing, though it would be far from their last. Hilariously enough, even the blurb on the product’s page—that’s right, somehow it’s still for sale from Paizo today for a whopping $2—notes that, “This Web supplement assumes you have a copy of Dungeon issue 100 containing both the adventure and the poster map of Tu’narath, the githyanki capital city.” Which, umm, seems pretty unlikely all things considered, as even most second-hand copies for sale are missing the poster. Fortunately, despite its absence from current pdfs (and I don’t just mean the official release: once I realized it was gone from the official version, I searched for a pirated one that included the map and had no luck there either), a kind soul online has uploaded a readable-quality version of the map, making this supplement still very easy to use, though to see its reverse-side images you’re going to have to shell out some bucks on eBay.  


Perkins’ version of Tu’narath is a wide-ranging, fascinating location that reminds me so much of the wonderful worlds of Planescape that it still feels like a part of that setting. The city’s market ward in particular, which is where visitors are confined, absolutely overflows with planar substance to the point that I found myself half-expecting to see Planescape’s cant crop up in descriptions at any given moment. Want a strange inn run by a tiefling with dwarf advisors of competing alignments? Gotcha covered. Need an “acid emporium” to purchase some deadly substances, or perhaps an “astral aviary” to send messages across the planes? Of course those are here. Every business in the ward is filled with personality, and not only that there are small plot hooks aplenty to keep your party busy. Even questions raised by “Beloved,” such as how the githzerai are sneaking into the city and what efforts are being made to stop them, get answered here.

For the life of me, I could not figure out who the cartographer for Tu’narath’s poster-size map was, though it sure is wonderful. Presumably Christopher West did this as well, but I haven’t been able to locate any confirmation of this.

This city guide even expands on information about astral ships and includes maps of other fortress-like areas adventurers might want to visit. Prior to this article, I’d always considered Tu’narath a pretty uninhabitable location for a campaign. The paucity of information about the city combined with the general awfulness of its inhabitants made it seem a lot less interesting than, say, Sigil or the City of Glass. But Perkins opens this location up, and while it’s still not a place you’ll want to purchase a vacation home in, it feels absolutely ripe for adventure. Here, it feels alive for the first time, though no less militaristic or foreboding than before. Maybe it’s the apparent lack of any word count restraint, or the need to turn this location into an adventure in and of itself, but for once it feels like Perkins just had a great time creating a strange planar locale. It’s weird to say it, but if you’re only going to read or purchase one of these githyanki articles, this is the one to check out.


However, Perkins’ Tu’narath guide isn’t even the final bit of this massive barrage of githyanki content. Paizo also published a “Web Enhancement” article to accompany these pieces, which also was authored by Perkins, though unlike the last article this wasn’t a weird one-off—Paizo did a decent number of these web enhancement articles tying into their magazines, all of which were free. As far as I know, they’re all even still hosted online at, though they’re not really indexed there so finding copies is reliant on Google searches and the like. They’re well-hidden in the weird depths of Paizo’s website, but I’m happy so long as things aren’t completely inaccessible, and for web content this old to be available at all is quite the surprise. 

Who says githyanki can’t be sexy? Me. I say that, and use this image as proof.

This supplement’s planar content (it also includes a bit tying into another adventure from this issue of Dungeon) focuses on the strange flying fortresses that surround Tu’narath. As you can see from the map, these kind of orbit the deceased deity’s corpse, acting as watchtowers to prevent invasion. Since this location is in the Astral Plane, that means they need to be three-dimensionally surrounding the place in all directions, and also that they’re probably not super useful because people who can get out here probably have little difficulty getting a little bit further and into the city itself. But whatever, the fortresses are still a cool addition to the city. While they’re largely filled with grunts, as a whole facing one of these towers is roughly an EL 18 encounter, so they’re conveniently on par with the type of thing a party adventuring here to, say, murder the Lich-Queen might be up for facing as a sidequest. Unfortunately, the actual map of the fortress is part of that poster map of the city, but at this point that’s only to be expected. I can’t say that this description is nearly as interesting as what we had for the rest of the city, but that’s also not a surprise because these are military encampments, so it’s not like there’s all that much flavor to be had. 

In all, these five githyanki articles Paizo published come in at something like 150 pages of length and offer a ton of insight into the race and its capital city. It’s more than a bit annoying how the information for all of this ends up spread out, but really, for most people just the actual Dungeon adventure and the “Tu’narath City Guide” are going to be what’s actually referred to. I wholeheartedly recommend reading through all of these articles if you can manage, but the “City Guide” in particular should make any old Planescape fans happy with its quality and quirkiness. Unfortunately, following this expansive series of articles, I believe that neither Paizo nor Wizards did much with this setting again until it made a small appearance in fourth edition, so all of those beautiful words were a bit wasted, but oh well, the potential for your own campaign is still there. Once Tu’narath did crop up again, we learned that much like with Dead Gods‘ surprise win from Orcus, apparently Vlaakith CLVII the Lich-Queen took down these adventurers and still maintains control over the githyanki, which is another slightly disappointing way of keeping the multiverse from moving forward in an interesting manner, but I suppose is also only to be expected.

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