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Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Dungeons & Dragons - A Guide to Mordenkainen

This guide is my attempt to grab all of the lore about Mordenkainen and collect it in one place. That should make it easier for you if you decide to use Mordenkainen in your campaign. 5th edition has done some sneaky and very cool things with him!

Short Version: Who is Mordenkainen? He's an archmage (MM pg 342) from the Greyhawk setting. He is sometimes in charge of a group of wizards known as the Circle of Eight. He has spells named after him in the Player's Handbook.

But what's really special about him is that he is the most famous real life character played by the co-creator of D&D: Gary Gygax.

Mordenkainen, the Character

Mordenkainen in the publications differs a bit from the "real life" pen-and-paper version. When Gary Gygax was playtesting D&D, he'd sometimes have Rob Kuntz (player of Lord Robilar) run him through adventures. Rob had Gary play through some now-famous scenarios, including Maure Castle aka Mordenkainen's Fantastic adventure.

A few years ago, I wrote a few articles collecting all of the information I could find about the original Castle Greyhawk campaign. Here's what I learned about Mordenkainen:

According to this blog, these are his stats:
  • STR 9
  • INT 18
  • WIS 13
  • DEX 13
  • CON 16
  • CHA 17
He has a staff of power and a ring of x-ray vision.

His henchmen included:
  • Bigby: A wizard
  • Zigby: A dwarf who led Mordenkainen's 300 dwarf followers.
  • Riggby: A cleric
  • Sigby Griggbyson: A fighter
  • Nigby: Bigby's apprentice
  • Digby
Pet Dragons: He owned two red dragons named Gorky and Porky.

Home: He lived in an obsidian citadel with Gary's other characters - Yrag, Vin & Vram (elf twins), and Felnorith (a fighter who collects swords).

Adventures: It is known that Mordenkainen barely survived Maure Castle, which I write more about further into this guide. Dave Arneson also ran Mordenkainen and Lord Robilar through City of the Gods.

Quick Note: I'm sure I've missed stuff, but I took a stab at it. I am fairly certain that the 3e stuff summarizes the events of the 2e Greyhawk sourcebooks. I have a lot of trouble reading the 2e Greyhawk stuff - massive walls of text.

In a lot of D&D supplements, Mordenkainen has teams of allies that get into all sorts of shenanigans. Here's a list of his two big groups:

The Citadel of Eight

Devoted to maintaining the cosmic balance between good and evil, this group fell apart due to infighting.
The Circle of Eight

This is a band of very powerful wizards who eventually fell to infighting. Here is a list of the members, which changed over time.
Rogues Gallery

This fun book is full of people's characters, many of them who played in Gary Gygax's own Castle Greyhawk campaign.

Apparently Gary Gygax says that Brian Blume made up these stats, as he refused to give Brian Blume his real stats. As Gary put it in 2003:

"The information in the ROGUE'S GALLERY was quite fallacious, made up im many cases when we refused to give Brian our PCs' stats. Rob respected my wishes and didn't use Mordie's actual stats and information, and whatever was written thereafter based on those works continues the error."

According to this book, Mordenkainen is a 16th level mage who "spends much of his time pondering over new bits of magical research." He usually travels with henchmen, but sometimes disguises himself as an old, poor merchant.

"He is an active and aggressive person, not failing to attempt bold, sweeping plans when the situation demands."

"He is stubborn and his decisions are often harsh. For all this, he is a clever and useful ally."

Mordenkainen has a lot of magic items, including an efreeti bottle, a bag of holding, and a crystal ball.

Mordenkainen's Fantastic Adventure

Gary Gygax explains in the special preface that explains this adventure was made by Rob Kuntz, and that Gary ran Mordenkainen and Bigby through it alone. "The terrible iron golem on the first level spelled petrifaction for Mordenkainen, and Bigby teleported out in great haste to bring reinforcements. With the aid of Yrag and Riggby, the monster was finally destroyed. Mordenkainen was restored to flesh again."

In this adventure, your players have the option of playing Mordenkainen, Yrag, Riggby, and Bigby. This group of heroes decided to go on this adventure when they heard that there were doors in Maure Castle that could not be opened.

Appearance: Mordenkainen appears to be a middle-aged man bedecked in simple grey robes.His beard is black with silver streaks and well-waxed.

Mordenkainen is statted out in the appendix. He is a 12th level wizard and he's got a mighty pile of magic items, including a carpet of flying, bracers of defense, a "scroll of the efreeti," and a Silver Key of Portals.

The Scroll of the Efreeti: This scroll is made from a lesser demon's skin, and bears flaming runes and sigils. When a spellcaster holds the scroll, it acts as a ring of fire resistance. If read, an efreeti appears and will serve the wielder for 2-5 hours. Once that time is up, the genie leaves and the scroll is useless.

Silver Key of Portals: This silver skeleton key was found in an abandoned chapel of Dalt, a lesser god of portals and enclosures. When the key is touched to any portal, "be it magical or other," the portal will slowly open. This key can be used to open four portals per day, and no more.

Statistics: What are his stats, you might ask:
  • STR 10
  • INT 18
  • WIS 15
  • DEX 17
  • CON 17
  • CHA 18
  • AC 1 (in 5e, that's an AC of 19)
  • HP 52
He worships Boccob, god of magic.

Bigby: He's a level 10 necromancer. He is described as oddly nervous and is extremely cautious.

Riggby: A lvl 9 high priest of Boccob and Zagyg, his opinions are "short and succinct."

Dragon Magazine - The Wizards Three

Through the history of Dragon Magazine, the great Ed Greenwood wrote many articles where wizards from different setting met with one another. They usually involved Elminster, from the Forgotten Realms, and Mordenkainen, from Greyhawk.

Reading these was a wild ride. Basically, these stories are a way to introduce new spells, monsters, and magic items. Mordenkainen, Elminster, and Dalamar get together and share these things with each other. They also drink and eat a lot (and.. well, you'll see).

This serves as a very early attempt at portraying the D&D "multiverse" and has characters cross over from one setting to another. 

Dragon #185 "Magic in the Evening"

Elminster is hanging out with the author, who lives on our Earth. Mordenkainen is coming to visit, and the author is hiding in a suit of armor hanging from hooks on the wall.

Here's what we learn about Mordenkainen, as well as some of the wacky things that happen in this story:
  • Here's the deal. These stories take place in Ed Greenwood's home on Earth. The wizards actually meet in his house.
  • Mordenkainen's Appearance: "A middle-aged man with a wise, craggy face." His face was "...alert and almost angry, like a hawk looking about for prey."
  • Mordenkainen likes soda. 
  • Mordenkainen is aware that Elminster tells a young lad (Ed Greenwood himself) all the secrets of Faerun. He gestures to "a few modules and boxed sets on a high shelf."
  • Mordenkainen can magically summon slim, dark cigars.
  • Elminster wants to create a wizard team-up group called the Wizards Three - and he wants to include an apprentice of Raistlin named Dalamar.
  • Mordenkainen explains that Tenser and Bigby have been attacked by some mysterious individual.
  • Mordenkainen thinks the Zhentarim are "dolts." 
  • Spelldreams: Mordenkainen weaves "spelldreams" for merchants which slowly unravel the spells other wizards have on the merchants.
  • Samander's Ring: Mordenkainen has Samander's Ring, which can be secretly placed on a person and block attempts to charm that person. Mordenkainen can summon it back to himself.
  • Mordenkainen likes mayonnaise.
Dragon #188 "The Wizards Three"
  • The author again hides in a suit of armor to quietly spy on the wizards. He notes that "Dalamar the Dark" is indeed going to meet with Elminster and Mordenkainen.
  • Vecna Lives: Mordenkainen is in a dark mood. The Circle of Eight are dead and Vecna is supposedly gone for good. I think this is a reference to the events that occur in the adventure called Vecna Lives.
  • Dalamar is edgy and Mordenkainen threatens him.
  • Daunskul: Mordenkainen talks about Daunskul, a wizard who walks between worlds and is a shapeshifter. He is a "Lord High Necromancer" who can grant undead the ability to use spells, and make false liches." He also can create undead that reflect spells back on the caster.
  • These Visits are Personal: Elminster refers to Ed Greenwood as his "pet."
  • Dalamar likes mustard.
  • Mordenkainen eats a giant cheese-and-turkey sandwich that is as thick as Ed's forearm.
Dragon #196 "Three Wizards Too Many"
  • Elminster possesses mint-wine given to him by a gold dragon named Galglentor.
  • Mordenkainen Saying: When Mordenkainen is surprised, he yells "Dancing hobgoblins!"
  • Another saying: "I'm on blade's edge these days. A great war rages in my world."
  • The Wizards Three are laughing and probably a bit drunk. 
  • Dalamar doesn't like marshmallows or root beer floats.
  • Spell Mirror: A fragile oval of polished glass. Each one guards against a specific spell
  • Big Crossover: Mordenkainen met Fistandantilus. "The memory of our meeting is not a happy one." It is explained that Fistandantilus at one times wandered worlds, seizing magic and killing people with his Bloodstone. Mordenkainen says that he taught Fistandantilus "the wisdom of staying closer to home."
  • Mordenkainen can have a third hand come out of his robes to hand you things or perhaps use magic items.
  • An old saying on Oerth: "Secrets kill."
  • Bloodglass: It shows how many hit points an enemy has left.
  • Friendly Fungus: A living mushroom familiar, that can fetch things that you visualize while touching it. 
  • Uh oh. Mordenkainen might know that Ed is hiding in the armor. The visor suddenly seals shut as Mordenkainen leaves. 
Dragon #200 "The Wizards Three"
  • Mordenkainen definitely knows Ed is there, hiding. Mordenkainen winks at him.
  • Mordenkainen is still upset about the wars on Greyhawk. He has the "stink of spell-battle" on him.
  • Mordenkainen's Involuntary Wizardry: This spell forces a random memorized spell out of the mind of an enemy wizard, and visits its effects on them.
  • Bonebind: This spell immobilizes undead and rolls them up into balls. Seriously! That's Mordenkainen's spell he's sharing in this one.
  • So... a fork started moving, and turned into Elminster's girlfriend - The Simbul. "A fire-eyed woman whose long silver hair curled around her shoulders with a life of its own."
  • Dalamar keeps getting mad that everyone is higher level than he is.
Dragon #211 "The Wizards Three"
  • Elminster isn't thrilled with Ed's chili.
  • Mordenkainen is in a better mood.
  • They pranked Dalamar. Something about a "flatulent eructation." Mordenkainen calls him a "youngling."
  • Mordenkainen used to take trips to Waterdeep. "I used to go with some friends to Waterdeep fairly regularly, for - ah, recreation."
  • Night of Shadows: A frolic, a night of fun. On Oerth, it refers to a night of doom that befell many Bakluni mages so long ago that what happened has been twisted into several legends.
  • Mordenkainen can snap his fingers and cause a flurry of parchment to erupt on wings from his book. 
  • Mordenkainen can summon a fine dark red cloak out of nowhere, which settles on his shoulders.
  • Dalamar is now 100% friends with the other wizards.
  • Argaster's Cloak of Shadows: Targeting one creature, this spell boosts AC, makes the wearer hard to see, and allows the wearer to walk through web and evard's black tentacles spells.
  • Belsham's Mace: This spell summons a magic mace that, if it hits, knocks the target unconscious for one round. 
  • Othnall's Spectral Dagger: A hovering weapon that attacks enemies.
Dragon #219 "The Wizards Three: Warmer Than Expected"
  • This story is a turning point. All of the tales after this one get wackier and wackier.
  • Ed's bedroom has a poster of unicorn-riding ladies. Elminster grunts in an approving tone. 
  • The Wizards meet in the woods behind Ed's house. Dalamar is bringing a guest who breaks things. Ed is able to spy through Elminster's belt buckle
  • Elminster doesn't like hot dogs: "They seem to represent the first feeble reachings of thy culture toward achieving undeath for no-longer needed body parts!"
  • Shaaan the Serpent-Queen: Dalamar's guest. She has soft white skin and wears a garment made of serpents' scales, and a green half cloak. She ends up being an extremely powerful villain with a big backstory. Shaaan has a "spell-shield" that she once used to disintegrate an island.
  • Mordenkainen goes to kiss her hand, and suddenly "hooked white fangs protrude from her knuckles" and give him a poison bite. Mordenkainen doesn't care because the dude can handle the poi.
  • Shaaan turns into a pillar of flame and attacks the wizards. She apparently cast time stop, but Elminster broke it somehow.
  • Elminster has a steel codpiece. What is happening right now
  • Elminster confines Shaaan to the "Floating Helm of Tarados" in the Astral Plane, drifting endlessly.
  • Mordenkainen likes hot dogs. 
  • Ring of Lady Summoning: OK. So, Mordenkainen has three "rebellious young beauties" who are his apprentices/girlfriends, I guess. He has a ring that he can use to summon them. He does so. Elminster then makes sure Ed can't see anything else and the Wizards Three party all night. Elminster meets with Ed the next morning, with "smudges of rouge and kohl" on his face.
Dragon #238 "The Return of the Wizards Three"
  • I swear this is real. Elminster claims he was on the internet and that he was not happy about people talking about his shenanigans with the ladies in the last Wizards Three story that Ed wrote. He says that all they did was wash each other's backs. All 6 of them, together.  Elminster starts to describe an "undignified" game mages play with each other. It involves taking off your clothes and is called Twenty Transformations.
  • Rautheene: She is Mordenkainen's apprentice, a tall woman.  I think she was one of the apprentices from the last story.
  • Dalamar won't be here, because of "magical trouble" on Krynn.
  • There's a lot of talk about Rautheene's bodice and red lips.
  • They get wasted and eat piles of pizza and ice cream.
  • Firedart: Basically a firebolt spell.
  • Backshift: This spell forces a creature who changed shape back into its original form.
Dragon #242 "Jest the Wizards Three"
  • It looks like Rautheene has replaced Dalamar in the Wizards Three.
  • She calls Mordenkainen "Master."
  • They talk about dipping cheddar in mustard. 
  • Rautheene says that her career tended toward deception before she met Mordenkainen. She has a spell called "false ioun stone."
  • These last few stories have taken a weird turn. Elminster actually tells Ed that Rautheene is gaining weight and that he secretly noticed that her dress size went up since their last meeting.
  • Echo: "Records" all sounds heard by its caster in the round immediately preceding its casting. 
  • Fingerblade: When cast, this spell calls forth a smallblade that can desstroy one non-magical bladed weapon.
  • Spy: Summons an eye or ear that the caster can perceive through if within 90 feet.
Dragon #246 "The Night it Wailed Wizards"
  • Mordenkainen likes old sherry.
  • Rautheene had tried to cast fly for the first time, but a storm was raging and I think she got hit by lightning. She's not hurt too badly.
  • Elminster likes to turn into a tree branch during a thunderstorm?
  • The wizards worry that Krynn is going through another cataclysm. Rautheene wants to go to Krynn to find out. 
  • They eat a lot of ice cream.
Dragon #344 "A Dark and Stormy Knight: Another Evening With the Wizards Three"
  • This should be interesting. It's been 100 issues since the last story! We're jumping from 2nd edition to 3.5.
  • They actually follow up on Rautheene's attempt to learn the fate of Dalamar. She says her magic isn't strong enough and that the mages of Krynn are arrogant gluttons.
  • So... Elminster does some magic thing and Rautheene burps. Then she wipes a deviled egg on his face.
  • This whole series changed completely once Mordenkainen summoned those lady friends. Ever since then, it's been nothing but food, pranks, and the aggressive teasing of Rautheene.
Dragon #359 "Goodbye and Hello, as Always: One Last Evening with the Wizards Three."
  • The weird Rautheene stuff reaches critical mass when she falls in Elminster's lap, and he seeks to "buck her off by repeatedly thrusting his pelvis sharply upwards."
  • Dalamar shows up! He's fine, just crabby.
  • They watch television and Dalamar decides that all the women of Earth must be fat. Really!
  • Elminster confesses that Ed has been spying on them all this time and writing about them in Dragon Magazine. When Mordenkainen is assured that these articles are of good quality, he decides to let Ed live.
In the beginning, these stories were very intense and pretty serious. Mordenkainen and Elminster were trying to subtly influence Dalamar, trying to make him a force for good, or at least, not an evil-doer.

But halfway through, this turned into stories about wizards eating ice cream and a heck of a lot of Rautheene silliness.

I honestly feel the urge to try to portray Rautheene differently in my game - as a serious spellcaster and not quite so silly.

Castle Greyhawk

I've written about this "parody" adventure before and it annoys me even more now. The real life Castle Greyhawk is Gary Gygax's own dungeon that he playtested the entire D&D game with! This published thing is a "comedic romp" which in part lampoons Gary's time in Hollywood working on the D&D cartoon.

Mordenkainen is actually in this adventure. He's gone Hollywood, see? So Mordenkainen cleared out the 11th level of the dungeons so he could set up a film studio.

He made friends with "Sam and Irwin Splitstein" on a world very similar to our own 20th-Century Earth.

Mordenkainen has branched out from Sword and Sorcery films. Here's some of his movies:
  • "Seven Secrets of Kung Fu Death."
  • "Monster Fraternity Vacation II: Daytona Daze"
  • "Fantasy: The Movie" The author actually writes out a page of the script of this movie.
  • "They Saved Tenser's Brain" Tenser is a severed head floating in a fishbowl, leading an army of 90-foot-tall orcs.
  • Mordenkainen's Groupies: 2d6 giant trolls from the Pomarj.
  • "Balzor the Warrior"
  • "Island of the Sorceresses"
  • "Anak!"
Apprentices: Mordenkainen's apprentices are all helping out with the movie biz.
  • Mort and Gort: They run a small movie theater in area 2. 
  • Bort: The projectionist. 
  • Cort: Handles casting.
  • Qort and Xort: Filming special effects. They're using a miniature model of the City of Brass.
  • Port: Works in the cafeteria, selling "Cream of Human Soup", "French Fried Dwarves," and more.
  • Yort: Director of "Monster Fraternity II." The writers of this movie are "fat orcs with perms."
Shockingly, these apprentices are actually used in the 4e Mordenkainen's Magnificent Emporium in an extremely cool way!

Mordenkainen has a hot tub of relaxation. The group finds him in the hot tub with his "very special friend," Fiona. She is a 14th level thief. Seems like a personal jab, doesn't it?

Mordenkainen wants to hire any character with a Charisma of 16 or higher to be in one of his films.

Yes The Tarrasque is in This: The  tarrasque agreed to make a cameo in "Fantasy: The Movie." It is wearing sunglasses that make it immune to light or continual light spells.

The heroes can actually step through a portal into the Splitstein's world.

Couch of Casting: If you sit on it, the couch tries to charm you on the behalf of the director of the film.

Dungeon Magazine #112 "Maure Castle"

This issue includes Gary Gygax's own account of when Mordenkainen was turned to stone. He states that Mordenkainen and Bigby were accompanied by "the doughty Lords Yrag and Felnorith, as well as a cleric, the Bishop Raunalf."

The battle against the stone golem went very badly. Bigby was turned to stone and Yrag was killed. Felnorith defeated it alone.

"With the aid of a minor artifact known as the Silver Key of Portals, Mordenkainen and his companions entered the dungeon twenty-five years ago."

In this adventure, the bad guy Eli Tomorast was resurrected by a gnoll shaman named Yug-Anark, who was sent visions by the demon lord, Yeenoghu.

In the 4th level of this dungeon, there are two hirelings of Lord Robilar, named Vlarda and Nornuk. They ended up joining the side of Eli Tomorast as spies, but Eli is on to them. He hopes he can use them to strike down Mordenkainen and the Circle of Eight in "glorious revenge."

Living Greyhawk Gazeteer

"Mordenkainen the Archmage formed the Circle of Eight as a tool to manipulate political factions of the Flanaess, preserving the delicate balance of power in hopes of maintaining stability and sanity in the region. Mordenkainen's view of 'enforced neutrality' is not a tit-for-tat equality but rather a detailed theoretical philosophy derived from decades of arcane research. He has fought ardently for the forces of Good, most recently during the Greyhawk Wars, but just as often has worked on darker plots to achieve his ends."

Epic Level Handbook

There is a section in the back of the book which gives stats for some famous NPCs, including Elminster and Lord Robilar.
  • He runs the Circle of Eight, who work to ensure that no one power gains dominance over too much of the Flanaess.
  • He has a dark beard trimmed to a point and a shaved head.
  • "His apparent age is around 40 (though his true age is twice that)."
  • The Obsidian Citadel: His private army, who fights for good.
  • Mordenkainen has often worked on the side of infernal forces.
  • Those who count him as an enemy: Evard the Black, Terik, and Rary.
  • Silver Key of Portals: It functions like a chime of opening and automatically dispels arcane locks. It can cast passwall, ethereal jaunt, and word of recall.
Expedition to the Ruins of Castle Greyhawk

The book gives an extensive history of Mordenkainen's life.

36 years ago, Mordenkainen came to the city of Greyhawk after hearing about Zagig and his Company of Seven. Mordenkainen form the Citadel of Eight, and went on many adventures.

The Citadel Implodes: He developed a rigid philosophy based on cosmological balance. Tenser did not like it and wanted the Citadel to dedicate themselves to eradicating evil. This conflict eventually tore the group apart, though Mordenkainen remained friends with Lord Robilar.

The Prison of Demi-Gods: Robilar and Mordenkainen traveled to the City of the Gods. Mordenkainen ultimately discovered Zagig's prison, an entire dungeon level under Castle Greyhawk designed to imprison nine demigods. Zagig used it to steal some of their own power and becoming a god who served in the court of Boccob.

Assassinating Iuz: One god trapped in the prison was Iuz. Mordenkainen knew that his prison wouldn't last forever, and sent Lord Robilar down there to kill Iuz while he was still trapped there. But as Robilar got in the prison, Tenser, Bigby, and Neb Retnar appeared in an attempt to stop the scheme. In the chaos, Iuz escaped, plane shifting to the Abyss.

27 years have passed since that happened. Riggby died of natural causes.

The Circle of Eight: Mordenkainen regretted freeing Iuz, and formed the Circle of Eight, an association of wizards. Then, Rary betrayed the group, killing Tenser, and Otiluke. Bigby was gravely injured. Lord Robilar, a surprise ally of Rary's, had attacked the strongholds of the slain and prevented them from being raised from the dead.

The Expedition: This adventure gets underway and at one point, the heroes run into Mordenkainen. He has the key that will allow the heroes to enter the Tower of Magic in Castle Greyhawk.

Bilarro: He explains that there is an artifact called the Orb of Opposition that is a key to an alternate world called "Uerth," which is like Oerth, but darker. Long ago, Zagig and his allies actually swapped worlds with their counterparts from Uerth. Mordenkainen is convinced that the Robilar of this world is actually his evil double, Bilarro (of Iron bands of Bilarro fame).

This is an extremely clever way to explain why Robilar sided with Rary. The betrayal never matched up with Lord Robilar's character. 

At the end of this adventure, Mordenkainen might consider the heroes as new members of the Circle of Eight.

Mordenkainen's Magnificent Emporium

I did not expect to find anything interesting in here, but man was I wrong.

This is a 4th edition sourcebook full of magic items, many of which have weird lore attached to them. This book was a bit of an effort to encourage 4th edition players to utilize story and roleplaying, which was a bit tricky to do for some in 4e with the gridded combat and abstract skill challenges.

Destroyed? Mordenkainen's secret master copy of the Magnificent Emporium tome was destroyed. Mordenkainen "burned its pages and then disintegrated the ash."

Introduction: The intro to this book is an epic screed written by Mordenkainen. He says stuff like: "But for a few dust-mad liches dreaming in their lonely tombs, my friends and I represent the last of the old guard. Who born in the last forty years can measure of themselves an ounce of the worth of Otiluke, Bigby, Tenser, or Robilar - or even Rary or Evard? Bah! What does it matter?"

Some other choice nuggets:
  • Mordenkainen once sought power, but now he seeks to keep it from others.
  • "Power wielded to dictate over all is power used to disastrous effect."
  • "By cataloguing what exists - and what is rumored to exist - I hope to be forewarned of the danger of any item when it falls into the wrong hands."
Scholar's Note: "This excerpt and others to follow were gleaned from the original master text during the production of one of its eight copies. As a former apprentice to Mordenkainen, please understand that I take my life in my hands by disseminating his work without his permission. Please treat this text with the utmost care and secrecy.  - Qort"

Yes.. that's Qort, being canon. Qort, one of Mordenkainen's apprentices in charge of filming special effects in the 1st edition parody Castle Greyhawk adventure.

Armor: In the armor chapter, he mentions that Robilar wore armor of all sorts.

It notes that this entry was "from his master copy of the Magnificent Emporium, on a magically hidden page accessible only by those who can cast spells."

Weapons: "Woe would come to us all if Blackrazor or a vorpal sword were allowed to circulate unchecked by our vigilance."

"When you find new properties on weapons (or upon any other items,for that matter), please record them in your copy of this book. Doing that will transfer them to my master copy, and I will then disseminate that knowledge to the others who hold a copy of this work. Please include any information you gather about creating the various properties of magic items, and be assured I will keep such knowledge in the strictest confidence."

Qort writes: "Of special note is the last paragraph, which was redacted from the few copies that Mordenkainen disseminated before he reclaimed and destroyed them."

Implements: "I have collected an array of the most powerful of these items, and those that serve no purpose for me I subject to disjunction."

Qort writes: "Though it cannot be confirmed, it is the belief of this scholar that the paranoia evinced in his words might be due to a curse or even possession by some foreign spirit. Doubtless Mordenkainen could have held thoughts such as those he expresses here, but it is unlike him to betray such concerns so candidly."

Magical Gear: Mordenkainen writes that magic is not a system or a language. "... the truth is that all things are part of the same continuum. Why else would magic of so many types accomplish much the same end, and why else are so many things - from old gloves to living beings to entire planes - able to be created and imbued with magic?"

He further writes that it is probably beyond the capacity of mortals to comprehend. He wonders if that is why there are gods. "Certainly they've proved themselves good for little else."

Artifacts and Curses: "Any artifact puts the scales out of balance." Destroying them is difficult. He prefers that they remain unfound and inaccessible.

Adventuring Gear: After Mordenkainen writes about how he likes his hirelings to be predictable,

Qort writes: "I do not doubt that Mordenkainen would consider my copying of a text he eradicated from existence to be a betrayal. And the manner in which I left his service can leave no doubt. Did he know that I would create this extra copy of the work? If so, did he predict that I would kill the other seven apprentices to protect my secret? I would not put such a callous calculation past the old scoundrel. But if he knew I would act this way, am I being allowed to live out my part in his plans, or shall I be eliminated now that my part is done?"

Qort Killed the other Castle Greyhawk apprentices! Amazing.

Dungeon Master's Guide

On page 68, it says: "On Oerth (the sword-and-sorcery world of the Greyhawk setting), heroes such as Bigby and Mordenkainen are driven by greed or ambition."

Monster Manual

On page 167, there is a quote:

"Beyond the unopenable doors lay a grand hall ending before a towering stone throne, upon which sat an iron statue taller and wider than two men. In one hand it clutched an iron sword, in the other, a feather whip. We should have turned back then.

- Mordenkainen the Archmage, chronicling his party's harrowing exploits in the dungeons below Maure Castle.

Pretty cool that they slipped this into the MM. I love all the quotes and references they sprinkled into the book.

Curse of Strahd

So, what is Mordenkainen up to in 5th edition, you ask? Why, he's the Mad Mage of Mount Baratok!
  • A man in tattered black robes. His hair and beard are long, black and streaked with gray.
  • Mordenkainen came to Barovia more than a year ago to free its people from Strahd's tyranny.
  • Strahd drove the Mad Mage to the mountains and sent the wizard hurling over Tser Falls.
  • He lost his staff and his spellbook.
  • He survived the fall but was driven mad by the realization that he no longer has any hope of defeating Strahd or freeing the people of the vampire's damned realm.
  • Greater restoration would normally cure his madness, but he has cast a mind blank spell on himself.
  • Stats: He's an archmage.
  • The Mad Mage's Mansion: He has a hidden Mordenkainen's magnificent mansion on the mountain.
  • "If the characters come from the Forgotten Realms and mention this fact to Mordenkainen, he asks them if they know his old friend Elminster of Shadowdale."
  • "With his sanity restored, Mordenkainen can be stubborn and difficult even with his friends, and doesn't suffer fools."
Death Masks

I had absolutely no idea that this novel actually tells the story of Mordenkainen recovering from his time in Barovia. I am relying partly on this post to describe the content of the book.
  • This is a recent book by Ed Greenwood about Elminster and Mordenkainen.
  • Mordenkainen heals himself in Waterdeep, and Elminster protects him while he does so.
  • Mordenkainen goes from gibbering and violent at the start of the book, to composed and helpful by the end.
  • This takes place as Storm King's Thunder gets going.
Mordenkainen's Tome of Foes

Shemeshka the Marauder actually has a note in the beginning:

Preface: Shemeshka claims much of this book was written by Bigby, who was under a charm spell. "Mordenkainen released Bigby from the spell once he had turned Bigby away from his evil ways and Bigby had earned Mordenkainen's trust."

Qort: Guess who also has a note? Qort! Amazing. Qort paid Shemeshka to steal this book from Mordenkainen. This book is the birthplace of Mordenkainen's philosophy of the Balance.

In this book, Mordenkainen writes about the Blood War, Elves, Dwarves, Gith, halflings/gnomes, and various monsters. Here's some of the info found in the quotations scattered throughout the book:

Rary Corrupted by Demogorgon? Modenkainen studied the symbol of Demogorgon through a mirror, but was still magically affected by it. "It was Rary who saved me, and I thought that he had been spared the symbol's effects. I don't have many regrets, but underestimating that symbol is one of my greatest."

Elves: "In so many worlds, the rise of humanity seems to follow the fall of elves. What will follow, should humanity fall? Orcs."

Drow and Elminster: "I have heard tales of drow who have forsaken the evil ways of their kind. I give these stories no credit, though Elminster himself swears they have validity. Never trust a drow, or the word of an archmage."

Mordenkainen and the Githyanki City: "I have been to Tu'Narath. A heaven for the githyanki it is not. Their apathy and frustration manifest as a visible fog, which clears only when the githyanki ready for war.

Mordenkainen and the Githzerai: "I couldn't discern if the githzerai leader was alive, dead, or undead. But the psychic stress in his audience chamber was so intense that I could barely think. Did that pressure come from Menyar Ag-Gith, or from the dozens of followers that surrounded his body? Alas, I left with that thought and my original question, unanswered."

Githzerai Inspiration: "I studied for a time with the githzerai in Limbo. Their adamantine citadels inspired a spell I created."

Elminster and Gnomes: "Elminster calls gnomes the Forgotten Folk - an apt name for them in most worlds. I've walked many realms, and nary a one has even a hint of a gnome nation."

Gith and Mindflayers: "The githzerai are a check on the githyanki and the illithids. The githyanki are a check on the githzerai and the illithids. Thus, three unequal forces enforce the Balance."

Baldur's Gate: Descent into Avernus

Mordenkainen is in The Nine Hells! He has a dwelling called the Tower of Urm that can shift between planes.
  • The Tower: "An iron tower rises atop an island on a lake of boiling blood." "Red lightning crackles constantly between two horns of metal on the tower's roof." Mordenkainen remains "deep inside his tower and swiftly shunts the building to another plane in times of danger."
  • Studying: "Mordenkainen, a chaotic neutral human archmage, often sojourns to Avernus to study how the Nine Hells affect the schools of magic."
  • Yugoloth Agents: He pays yugoloths to do his bidding in Avernus. He has 9 mezzoloths and 3 nycaloths at the tower. Two of the Nycaloths - Torgrazk and Shraal - are loyal to Zariel and have been sent here to kill Mordenkainen. 
  • Appearance: "Mordenkainen is a stern bald man with a neatly trimmed black goatee beard and a penetrating stare."
  • Simulacrum: He uses a simulacrum outside the tower.
Books Written By Mordenkainen

Most of these come from an article in Dragon #82.

“Epic Saga of the Great Conjurers”: Contains these spells: Mordenkainen‘s faithful hound, conjure animals, monster summoning VI, cacodemon.

“Architecture” by Leomund & Mordenkainen: Contains these spells:Leomund’s secure shelter, Leomund’s tiny hut, forcecage, Mordenkainen‘s magnificent mansion.

“Cosmogony of Magnetic Fluids: Contains these spells: Chain lightning,  Mordenkainen‘s disjunction,
volley, energy drain.

The Dark Sides of the Memory”: Contains these spells: Banishment, Mordenkainen’s lucubration, ensnarement, contingency.

“The Weapons of the Ether” by Melf & Mordenkainen: Contains these spells: Whip, Melfs acid arrow, magic missile, enchant an item, enchanted weapon, Mordenkainen’s sword.

Codex of Mordenkainen: This book is detailed in the AD&D 2e Outer Planes Appendix. Information in the Codex:
  • Mordenkainen suggests that a day will come when the plotting of the devils will come to a fruition and a gate will be opened into the Prime Material plane.
  • Mordenkainen scryed into the Abyss. "The great writhing mass of torment and hatred that extended infinitely in all directions tore my soul asunder and caused me to weep."
  • He saw a pillar of flame that extended up into the sky that rose from a base of torment. The dead of the Abyss lined the base.
  • The archmage studied the Blood War and used a ritual that put him into a deep sleep , where he dreamed of history and prophecy.
  • He saw "coils of time and written upon them were the histories of all deeds and places."
You could do a lot with that last bit. Mordenkainen has glimpsed the future! Apparently this has reinforced his belief that the balance between good and evil should be maintained.

Mordenkainen's Magnificent Emporium: This book describes magic items. There are/were 8 copies in existence, distributed by Qort, an apprentice of Mordenkainen's. Mordenkainen may have destroyed what he thought was the only manuscript.

Apparently, if you write down notes in a copy, your writings would also appear in the master copy.

Mordenkainen's Tome of Foes: Another book stolen and distributed by Qort. It contains a lot of lore on a variety of subjects, and may have been partly written by Bigby under duress.

Mordenkainen's Cookbook: According to this ENWorld thread, Mordenkainen may have written a cookbook. This qiote is allegedly from Gary Gygax:

"Mordenkainen thinks of blueberries as food. He has written a 500 pp cookbook listing his favorite recipes, and spells, employing this blue food item. One of the premier ones is a recipe for blue-fin tuna. The Blue Bolts dish is rather shocking, though...."

Spells Researched/Created by Mordenkainen

Mordenkainen's Buzzing Bee
Mordenkainen's Capable Caravel
Mordenkainen's Celerity
Mordenkainen's Defense Against Lycanthropes
Mordenkainen's Defense Against Nonmagical Reptiles and Amphibians
Mordenkainen's Disjunction
Mordenkainen's Electric Arc
Mordenkainen's Encompassing Vision
Mordenkainen's Faithful Hound
Mordenkainen's Faithful Phantom Defenders
Mordenkainen's Faithful Phantom Guardian
Mordenkainen's Faithful Phantom Shield-Maidens
Mordenkainen's Force Missiles
Mordenkainen's Involuntary Wizardry
Mordenkainen's Lucubration
Mordenkainen's Magnificent Mansion
Mordenkainen's Penultimate Cogitation
Mordenkainen's Private Sanctum
Mordenkainen's Protection From Avians
Mordenkainen's Protection From Insects and Arachnids
Mordenkainen's Protection From Slime
Mordenkainen's Sword
Mordenkainen's Trusted Bloodhound


Greyhawk Online
Forgotten Realms Wiki
The Great Library of Greyhawk
ENWorld - Books Written by Mordenkainen
Merric Blackman - Who is Mordenkainen the Mage?


grodog said...

Great compilation, Sean!---will dig into this later over the weekend :D


Mike Bridges said...

Incredible compilation! Kudos sir! I had been sitting on a similar post for sometime, but never finished it. Amazed to see him in the most recent Avernus book. Hmm.

Anonymous said...

I love these sorts of compilations. Thank you for putting in the effort to make this!

Alzrius said...

Don't forget the newest member of the Circle of Eight, Jallarzi Sallavarian.

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