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Template:Greyhawk Character

Mordenkainen is a fictional wizard from the World of Greyhawk campaign setting for the Dungeons & Dragons roleplaying game. He was created by Gary Gygax as a player character only months after the start of Gygax's Greyhawk campaign, and is therefore one of the oldest characters continuously associated with D&D.

Once Gygax was forced out of TSR, Inc., he lost creative control of Mordenkainen. TSR then made Mordenkainen a powerful wizard with strong convictions against moral absolutes, and the leader of the Circle of Eight, a cabal of eight powerful wizards. In fiction associated with the World of Greyhawk, he has played diverse roles as both protagonist and antagonist.

Official publications for the World of Greyhawk sometimes contradict each other regarding Mordenkainen. It is clear, however, that he is an important figure in the fictional history of the Flanaess.

Creative origins[]

In late 1972, Gary Gygax created Castle Greyhawk and the dungeons beneath it. After a few months of almost non-stop play as the Dungeon Master,[1] Gygax asked one of the players, Rob Kuntz, to become co-Dungeon Master, which would allow Gygax an opportunity to experience the game as a player. Gygax subsequently created several characters, including a 1st-level wizard in early 1973.[2] Gygax was interested in Finnish mythology, and named the wizard Mordenkainen, a portmanteau of the mythical heroes Mordecai and Lemminkäinen.[3]

He was to become Gygax's most famous character, and also his favourite to play.[4] Over several years of gameplay, mainly from 1973 to 1985, Gygax developed the character traits and adventures with which Mordenkainen would become associated, as well as raising the wizard to "twenty-something levels".[5] During this period, Gygax united Mordenkainen with eight of his other characters to form the Circle of Eight.[6][7][8] During his lifetime, Gygax never disclosed any of Mordenkainen's original game statistics.[9]

When Gygax was forced out of TSR in 1985, he lost the rights to most of the characters he had mentioned in TSR publications, including Mordenkainen.[10] TSR subsequently changed Mordenkainen in ways unforeseen by his creator. When the Greyhawk campaign world was reset in 1991's From the Ashes, Mordenkainen was refashioned as the world's most powerful wizard. The Circle of Eight was now described as a cabal of eight wizards supervised by Mordenkainen, who together sought to balance the forces of good and evil.

Mordenkainen is one of the famous mages whose spells were included in the 1988 Greyhawk Adventures hardbound.[11] Mordenkainen's name has been used to describe various spells published in the Dungeons & Dragons system of magic.

Publishing history[]

Mordenkainen's AD&D statistics were first published in The Rogues Gallery (1980), although Gary Gygax was later emphatic that he never gave author Brian Blume any information about the wizard, and insisted that Blume had been forced to make up the published statistics.[12] Variations on Mordenkainen's AD&D statistics were also published in Mordenkainen's Fantastic Adventure (1984), The City of Greyhawk (1989) and Epic Level Handbook (2002).

He was also mentioned in the following publications:

  • Expedition to the Ruins of Greyhawk (2007)
  • "The Wizards Three" series of articles from Dungeon Magazine
  • Mordenkainen's Magnificent Emporium (2011)

Mordenkainen also figured prominently in the parody adventure Castle Greyhawk (1988), in which he runs a film studio, possibly a reference to Gary Gygax's work as TSR's liaison to Hollywood while he was developing the Dungeons & Dragons cartoon and other projects.

Character biography[]

Template:In-universe Greyhawk authors Carl Sargent, Erik Mona, and Gary Holian imply that Mordenkain was born 509 CY. His birthplace is unknown, but before coming to prominence in the early 560s, he is thought to have resided on the Wild Coast. He also resided for a time in the City of Greyhawk, as well as Highfolk. He is rumored to be of Oeridian blood, possibly Aerdi. Some claim that he is a descendant of Ganz Yragerne, first Landgraf of the Selintan, which would mean he's also related to Zagig and Heward. According to some sources, he is distantly related to House Cranden, one of the royal houses of the Great Kingdom of Aerdy.

About 561 CY, with his young apprentice Bigby, the warriors Robilar and Yrag, the clerics Riggby and Serten, the ranger Otis, and fellow mage Tenser, Mordenkainen formed the Citadel of Eight. The group was named for the Obsidian Citadel, Mordenkainen's stronghold in the Yatil Mountains. The Citadel disbanded after the Battle of Emridy Meadows in 569 CY, where Citadel member Serten lost his life.

Two years later, Mordenkainen formed the Circle of Eight, a cabal of eight wizards with himself acting as the ninth "shadow member" and leader. Mordenkainen felt that the failure of the Citadel was due to its composition. He felt that such a group as he envisioned could only succeed if its members were "men of intellect and sorcerous skill, whose primary interests were more than material."[citation needed]

Role and philosophy[]

Mordenkainen's role in the Greyhawk setting has been describedTemplate:Who as a form of one-man peacekeeping force. He operates according to a theory based on power balance and Neutrality, trying to keep neither Good nor Evil from getting the upper hand. His methods are manipulative; he operates very much from the shadows.

The Living Greyhawk Gazetteer (2000) says the following about Mordenkainen:

"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."[13]


Mordenkainen appears much younger than his years, perhaps in his mid-forties. He is tall, of medium build and often depicted wearing black, blue, or grey. He wears a Van Dyke beard with two prominent grey streaks. Its shape has changed over the years, and in recent art is narrow and pointed, but was originally broad, covering the whole chin. He once wore his graying black hair at medium length, but since 591 CY has been shaving his pate bald, as well as trimming his goatee to a fine point. He speaks with a deep, melodic voice.

When traveling, Mordenkainen often disguises himself as a poor, elderly merchant.

Mordenkainen can be stubborn and difficult, and does not tolerate fools. He normally spends much more time listening than talking, but when he does speak, his pronouncements are authoritative and rarely questioned.

Related characters[]

As a major character in the World of Greyhawk, Mordenkainen has had dealings with nearly every other character in the setting. His enemies include Evard, Iuz, Rary, Terik, and Sir Robilar. His allies include Heward, Murlynd, Zagyg, Jallarzi Sallavarian, Otto, Ravel Dasinder, and the lesser deity Dalt.

He is distantly related to Heward, Zagyg, and Bigby. This latter was at one point Mordenkainen's apprentice.

The "Wizards Three" articles mention that Mordenkainen is an associate of Elminster of the Forgotten Realms setting and Dalamar of the Dragonlance setting, who all meet on Earth to swap news and magic. He is also stated to have an apprentice named Rautheene.

Mordenkainen's citadel is defended by humans, dwarves, and gnomes. The wizard is also allied with various giants.

Powers and Abilities[]

Mordenkainen is a powerful wizard and a potent political manipulator. He has many allies in the Free City of Greyhawk and his influence is far reaching.[citation needed]

He is responsible for developing a number of spells, all of whose names begin with the word "Mordenkainen's".

Mordenkainen is known to have authored or co-authored the following diegetic works:

  • Architecture (with Leomund)
  • The Codex of Mordenkainen
  • Cosmogony of Magnetic Fluids
  • Dark Sides of the Memory
  • Epic Saga of the Great Conjurers
  • On the Rise of Magecraft and Modernity
  • Weapons of the Ether (with Melf)

See also[]


  1. Gygax: "An average of seven gaming sessions a week was typical even when I was busy working. Often I played more than that. " "Gary Gygax: Q & A (Part II, Page 9)". EN World. 2003-02-26. Retrieved 2009-03-15. 
  2. Gygax: "Mordenkainen came into being about the first month of 1973.""Gary Gygax: Q & A (Part VIII, Page 8)". EN World. 2005-03-01. Retrieved 2009-03-15. 
  3. Gygax: "The background I created for Mordenkainen was Finnish-like in nature, and his master was a chap called 'Old Waino'... […] I picked the name because one Vainomoinen was sometimes referred to as "Old Waino." I really was captivated with Finnish myth after seeing a B&W movie done by the Russians, I think, about him, Leminkainen, and Ilmarinen adventuring to Pojola and entering Louhi's fortress, then reading The Green Magician by de Camp and Pratt as well as the Kalevala." "Gary Gygax: Q & A (Part X, Page 17-18)". EN World. 2006-06-13. Retrieved 2009-03-15. 
  4. Q: "Of the characters you have played, which is your favorite?" Gygax: "I really must admit Mordenkainen is my favorite. I enjoy playing fighters, rangers, thieves, clerics, and multi-classed sorts in OAD&D, but the magic-user is usually most fun for me."Johnson, Joel (2008-03-04). "Dungeons & Dragons Creator Gary Gygax Passes Away; Interview". Boing Boing Gadgets. Retrieved 2009-05-14. 
  5. Gygax: "I do believe that Mordenkainen earned his twenty-something levels through cleverness, daring, a bit of luck, and dint of trying..." "Gary Gygax: Q & A (Part X, Page 13)". EN World. 2006-06-13. Retrieved 2009-03-15. 
  6. Gygax: "The original [Circle of Eight] was composed of my PCs--Mordenkainen, Bigby, Yrag, Rigby, Felnorith, Zigby, Vram & Vin. In the novel version the Circle was expanded to encompass other PCs in my campaign such as Tenser. It came into being because Mordenkainen and Associates had a lot of wealth stored up from successful adventuring, located a place for a stronghold deep in enemy territory to assure plenty of action, and then went to work building the citadel. As there was a small army of dwarves associated with the larger, mounted field army, the building project went relatively quickly, about three game years to complete. While it was in progress, the 'boys' were active in raiding the lands around to keep the enemy forces back on their heels." "Gary Gygax: Q & A (Part IV, Page 9)". EN World. 2003-11-01. Retrieved 2009-03-15. 
  7. Gygax: "The Obsidian Citadel was indeed my personal creation as a player.... It was an octagonal castle with eight wall towers and a central keep with much space between the outer wall and the inner works because of the number of troops housed in this fortress."Gary Gygax: Q & A (Part VI, Page 9)". EN World. 2004-03-26. Retrieved 2009-03-15. 
  8. Gygax: "The Obsidian Citadel and its Circle of Eight was original to my own campaign. When Mordenkainen was at a level I considered too high for normal adventuring, I used the money he and his associates had amassed to construct the said fortress. The members of the 'Circle were Mordenkainen and...others of my PCs: Bigby, Yrag the fighter, Rigby the cleric, Zigby the Dwarf, the Elves Vram and Vin, and Felnorith as principles. A number of lesser PCs were [also] associated.""Gary Gygax: Q & A (Part III, Page 17)". EN World. 2003-07-08. Retrieved 2009-03-15. 
  9. Q: "May we see [Mordenkainen's] stats?" Gygax: "Can you see Mordie's stats? No! I won't even show you those for my most recent PC, Louhi Sharpnose, a gnome illusionist and treasure finder who I created only about four years back." Johnson, Joel (2008-03-04). "Dungeons & Dragons Creator Gary Gygax Passes Away; Interview". Boing Boing Gadgets. Retrieved 2009-05-14. 
  10. Gygax: "Anagrams of my name are exclusively my property according to my settlement agreement with TSR, so that is how I can use Zagyg, or Zagig, as well as Yrag.""Gary Gygax: Q & A (Part IX, Page 91)". EN World. 2005-10-20. Retrieved 2009-03-15. 
  11. Bambra, Jim (March 1989). "Role-playing Reviews". Dragon (Lake Geneva, Wisconsin: TSR) (#143): 71–72. 
  12. "The information in the Rogue's Gallery was quite fallacious, made up in many cases when we refused to give Brian (Blume) our PCs' stats. Rob respected my wishes and didn't use Mordie's actual stats and information [in Mordenkainen's Fantastic Adventure], and whatever was written thereafter based on those works continues the error. Brian Blume compiled Rogues Gallery, and when persons would not give him information regarding their PCs, as Rob and I did, he simply made up whatever suited him.""Gary Gygax: Q & A (Part VIII, Page 4)". EN World. 2005-02-21. Retrieved 2010-03-20. 
  13. Holian, Gary; Erik Mona, Sean K. Reynolds, Frederick Weining (2000). Living Greyhawk Gazetteer. Wizards of the Coast. ISBN 0-7869-1743-1. 

Further reading[]

  • Bailey, Robin Wayne. Night Watch (TSR, 1990).
  • Various (1988). World of Greyhawk. WG7. World of Greyhawk: TSR, inc.. p. 128. ISBN 0880385308. 9222XXX1401. 
  • Cook, David. "History of the Greyhawk Wars." Wars (TSR, 1991). Available Online: [1]
    • Cook, David. Vecna Lives! (TSR, 1990).
  • Greenwood, Ed. "A Dark and Stormy Knight: Another Evening With the Wizards Three." Dragon #344. Bellevue, WA: Paizo Publishing, 2006.
    • Greenwood, Ed. "Goodbye and Hello, as Always: One Last Evening with the Wizards Three." Dragon #359. Bellevue, WA: Paizo Publishing, 2007.
    • Greenwood, Ed. "Jest the Wizards Three." Dragon #242. Renton, WA: Wizards of the Coast, 1997.
    • Greenwood, Ed. "Magic in the Evening." Dragon #185. Lake Geneva, WI: TSR, 1992.
    • Greenwood, Ed. "The Return of the Wizards Three." Dragon #238. Lake Geneva, WI: TSR, 1997.
    • Greenwood, Ed. "Three Wizards Too Many." Dragon #196. Lake Geneva, WI: TSR, 1993.
    • Greenwood, Ed. "The Wizards Three." Dragon #188. Lake Geneva, WI: TSR, 1992.
    • Greenwood, Ed. "The Wizards Three." Dragon #200. Lake Geneva, WI: TSR, 1993.
    • Greenwood, Ed. "The Wizards Three." Dragon #211. Lake Geneva, WI: TSR, 1994.
    • Greenwood, Ed. "The Wizards Three." Dragon #246. Renton, WA: Wizards of the Coast, 1998.
  • Gygax, Gary. Artifact of Evil (TSR, 1986).
    • Gygax, Gary. Come Endless Darkness (New Infinities, 1988).
    • Gygax, Gary. Dance of Demons (New Infinities, 1988).
    • Gygax, Gary. Sea of Death (New Infinities, 1987).
  • Heard, Bruce. "Spells Between the Covers." (Dragon #82 (TSR, 1984).
  • Holian, Gary, Erik Mona, Sean K Reynolds, and Frederick Weining. Living Greyhawk Gazetteer (Wizards of the Coast, 2000).
  • Kuntz, Robert J.; Gygax, Gary (1984). Mordenkainen's Fantastic Adventure. WG5. World of Greyhawk: TSR, inc.. p. 32. ISBN 0-88038-168-X. 9112XXX1401. 
  • Mona, Erik, and Gary Holian. "Wheels within Wheels: Greyhawk's Circle of Eight." Living Greyhawk Journal #0 (Paizo Publishing, 2000). Available online: [2]
  • Moore, Roger E. Greyhawk: The Adventure Begins (TSR, 1998).
    • Moore, Roger E. (1998). Return of the Eight. World of Greyhawk: TSR, Inc. p. 64. ISBN 0-7869-1247-2. 9576XXX1502. 
  • Niles, Douglas, and Carl Sargent. The City of Greyhawk (TSR, 1989).
  • Pryor, Anthony (1992). Rary the Traitor. WGR3. World of Greyhawk: TSR, inc.. p. 59. ISBN 1-56076-497-X. 9386. 
  • Sargent, Carl. From the Ashes (TSR, 1993).
    • Sargent, Carl. Ivid the Undying (TSR, unpublished). Available online: [3]
  • Ward, James M. Greyhawk Adventures (TSR, 1988).