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    Canonfire :: View topic - High Level NPCs
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    High Level NPCs
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    Master Greytalker

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    Wed Dec 16, 2015 1:09 pm  
    High Level NPCs

    I was curious on what others thought about the number of high level NPCs (over 14th level) in Greyhawk. Are there to many? Not enough, just right? Have you had any problems with PCs exploiting them to much?

    My understanding of Greyhawk is that it is not suppose to be overwhelmed with high level NPCs. I have not looked at Forgotten Realms before but from what I have read it has far more high level NPCs than Greyhawk. When I look through the published materials (moldules, World Books, The Adventure Begins etc.) for Greyhawk it seems like the high level characters really add up. If I took a push pin to a map and marked each city with the number of high level characters that live there I think it would be pretty overwhelming compared to what WOTC/TSR/Gary Gygax seem to indicate a D&D world should be like.

    What are your thoughts and what have you done concerning the potential abundance of such individuals?
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    Eileen of Greyhawk, Prophet of Istus, Messenger of the Gods
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    Wed Dec 16, 2015 2:07 pm  

    I use the WoD boxed set as my principal source for the setting. It does not appear overpopulated with high level types. They are mostly rulers.
    The vast majority did not even have names listed in the the first, standalone Folio, IIRC


    Later sources do introduce more high level NPCs.

    It is very easy to reduce the levels of these guys or cut them entirely. GH with no Mordenkainen, or with him as a low or mid level Mage, is still GH. Mordenkainen was a PC before he was an NPC. He does not even show up in the Folio or the later WoG boxed set. I forget what level the Rogue's Gallery assigns, but I seem to recall it wasn't over the top. I may be thinking of one of the modules.

    The Darlene Map, the short article country and region entries, and the pseudo-medievalism are all more important to my conception of GH than any particular NPC or set of NPCs. IMO, and YMMV.
    GreySage

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    Wed Dec 16, 2015 6:01 pm  

    I'm okay with the number of high level NPCs in the Flanaess.

    First, it is less than other published works, like the FR. Second, Greyhawk is a violent world that would be overrun by monsters very quickly if the goodly nations didn't have lots of powerful defenders. How could Iuz possibly have failed to conquer the entire Flanaess in a few years when he had so many demons at his beck and call, unless there were a sufficiently high number of powerful good guys living in the nations to counter them?

    Thirdly, most of the named high-level NPCs in any source material are either rulers/leaders or otherwise retired as adventurers. Thus, they aren't all out hunting down the bad guys in their caves. Most have done their time and leave the adventuring to the younger generation. So, even though they still have mad skills, they aren't really contributing much except on the rare occasion when their own village is attacked - which explains why frontier villages are able to survive at all without being overrun by the nearby tribes of humanoids.

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    Master Greytalker

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    Wed Dec 16, 2015 11:22 pm  

    CombatMedic wrote:
    I use the WoD boxed set as my principal source for the setting. It does not appear overpopulated with high level types. They are mostly rulers.
    The vast majority did not even have names listed in the the first, standalone Folio, IIRC


    Later sources do introduce more high level NPCs.

    It is very easy to reduce the levels of these guys or cut them entirely. GH with no Mordenkainen, or with him as a low or mid level Mage, is still GH. Mordenkainen was a PC before he was an NPC. He does not even show up in the Folio or the later WoG boxed set. I forget what level the Rogue's Gallery assigns, but I seem to recall it wasn't over the top. I may be thinking of one of the modules.

    The Darlene Map, the short article country and region entries, and the pseudo-medievalism are all more important to my conception of GH than any particular NPC or set of NPCs. IMO, and YMMV.


    I'm not certain what WoD stands for *World of Darlene?)* but it sounds like your using the original world from the early 80's. I also have that product and I agree it is not over inflated with high level NPCs. I have always gone along with the newer supplements as Greyhawk developed over the decades and that is where the high level NPCs creep has taken place in my opinion. It never really occurred to me to use the older version and perhaps just take selective materials from latter supplements.

    I have been considering simply reducing the levels of the NPCs, be it from any source book. Part of the reason my high level NPC concerns exist is....

    In the campaign a war will be taking place between arcane and divine magic. I have yet to figure out what events will take place during this war, what the outcome might be and how it will affect the world afterwards. It was a prophecy given some time ago which will be coming true.

    Any suggestions by fellow Greyhawk fans would be greatly appreciated. I'm not looking to change the entire face of Greyhawk from this war but I am certainly up for some medium level permanent alterations to my world.

    The high level NPC issue seems to me that it would be a significant factor in such a war.
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    Thu Dec 17, 2015 5:12 am  

    LOL, World of typo.


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    Thu Dec 17, 2015 8:17 am  

    For me, the challenge of high level NPCs is coming up with a consistent explanation about why such powerful people are leaving it to the PCs to solve the crises of the moment (i.e., the adventure).

    The easiest answer is that the high level guys are in conflict with one another and don't have time for the task that the PCs are handling. Example: Drow manipulating giants into carving out realms on the surface world? Sorry, the Circle of Eight are all too busy with that Iuz guy at the moment - someone else has to do it.
    Example: Very powerful leaders of the Great Kingdom/former Great Kingdom are all too busy scheming against one another to explore ancient ruins, causeways or other places of mystery in the land.

    Another answer is that the crises is part of an even bigger threat - even if that bigger threat isn't real.
    Example: Circle of Eight missing due to a deus ex machina in the adventure? No - you're going to have to look for them, because we (the very powerful priests, warriors, and other mages of Greyhawk) are preoccupied looking for the source of some divination blackout ("... the Whispered One has carefully found seven magical items. Each item has been placed in a secret location, the position strategic to his plans." Vecna Lives, page 7). I mention this particular example because it is really the only reason given in that adventure for all the other high level folk of Oerth, who would be knowledgeable about the Circle, to do something other than investigate the disappearance. It is also the only mention of these seven magical items - the adventure has nothing more to say about them.

    And yet, it is still difficult with high-level spell casters to derive these consistent explanations. At high levels, the spell casters are literally remaking reality all around themselves. Perhaps the Old Faith is aggressive enough in its use of magic for restoring a "natural order" that others must constantly use their power just to maintain a quasi-medieval society. Also, there is an infinite Abyss filled with Demon Lords who wish to devour, enslave, or corrupt all mortals on the Oerth - and only the higher level folk can confront them. Without such pressures the Flanaess might have a system of magic portals between settlements or, cities filled with mile-high magic built towers, numerous flying cities, or even worse, a magical railroad network.

    So for me its not the presence of high level characters - its coming up with a reason for them not to get involved in the adventure and not to transform the setting into something else. Those tasks are for the players.


    Last edited by A-Baneful-Backfire on Thu Dec 17, 2015 12:02 pm; edited 1 time in total
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    Thu Dec 17, 2015 8:40 am  

    Circle of Eight?

    It was not introduced until 1989, IIRC. It's easy enough to just say no such group exists.
    After all, it did not exist until it was made up by TSR designers after Gygax left, using mostly new and altered versions of a bunch of old characters who were once PCs or their NPC henchmen.

    Rary was actually only third level! Medium Rary. ;)


    But everyone should run as he pleases.
    Let's say you do use all the published NPCs.

    A lot of the powerful ones may be making trouble for the heroes (assuming your PCs are good, heroic types, which may not be the case) as much as helping to stop trouble.

    I note that the published Circle of Eight leans hard towards neutrality.
    Mordenkainen, in particular, has been described in a way that makes him seem as likely to be helping the baddies on the sly as he is to help the good guys.
    Sure, he has issues with Iuz. So do a bunch of people, many of them quite evil. Nobody sane and not under Iuz's sway wants Iuz to control things. But is Mordenkainen maybe sending some help to the Horned Society to play one evil power off against another?
    And if the forces of goodness and justice grew too strong, would he perhaps act against them through his rather questionable network of contacts and allies.
    In canon, isn't one of his old adventuring pals a possible Hierarch of the Horned Society?


    Last edited by CombatMedic on Thu Dec 17, 2015 8:43 am; edited 1 time in total
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    Thu Dec 17, 2015 8:42 am  

    One last thought.

    If you are using 3.x/Pathfinder rules, consider using the E6 or Epic 6 house rule. Simply put nobody advances beyond 6th level - they just get more feats as they gain experience. There is a lot more on the web about E6, and it will be a matter of you and your player's preferences.

    The consequence is that the real campaign breaking magic is no longer available to anyone - PCs or NPCs.
    Journeyman Greytalker

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    Thu Dec 17, 2015 8:46 am  

    When I ran GH with B/X (thus using the 1--14 for humans and lower for demihumans scale) I adjusted NPC levels accordingly.

    Last edited by CombatMedic on Thu Dec 17, 2015 8:47 am; edited 1 time in total
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    Thu Dec 17, 2015 8:47 am  

    CombatMedic

    As my post indicated the Circle of Eight was used only as an example of a group of high level individuals who might get involved in a crises (for any number of reasons as you indicated).
    Journeyman Greytalker

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    Thu Dec 17, 2015 8:52 am  

    A-Baneful-Backfire wrote:
    CombatMedic

    As my post indicated the Circle of Eight was used only as an example of a group of high level individuals who might get involved in a crises (for any number of reasons as you indicated).


    Right.

    Most of the others are rulers.

    Or villains.

    Although you may be looking at a lot of guys from modules and later sourcebooks that I don't own.

    It just seems to me that GH is not overpopulated with busy-body, high powered do gooders who lack political responsibilities to keep them busy. Unlike, to be blunt, Forgotten Realms in the 2E and 3E eras. There's no "Elminster problem" in GH.

    I put that phrase in scare quotes because for some people it is an FR feature and not a bug. My tastes are by no means the only way to game.
    Adept Greytalker

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    Thu Dec 17, 2015 11:07 am  

    CombatMedic wrote:
    Circle of Eight?

    It was not introduced until 1989, IIRC. It's easy enough to just say no such group exists.
    After all, it did not exist until it was made up by TSR designers after Gygax left, using mostly new and altered versions of a bunch of old characters who were once PCs or their NPC henchmen.

    No, the Circle of Eight was initially pure Gygax. See WG6 and Artifact of Evil, also the earlier Citadel in WG5. Sargent seems to be the only "second wave" designer that bothered to read EGG's novels and Dragon magazine articles and it was good of him to flesh things out and maintain consistency.

    Mordenkainen, Bigby, Tenser, Otto are all drawn from, and reasonably close to, descriptions in Gygax-era products. For the remainder of the Circle, Sargent drew upon the spell lists Jim Ward & company developed for Greyhawk Adventures, plus one personal invention, Jallarzi. Some justification was needed for devoting 6+ pages of a city boxed set to a group of international Gygaxian wizards and Sargent was likely inspired by Ward's remark on p51 of GA that each wizard had, "at one time, made their home in the city of Greyhawk." I suspect Sargent was looking for any opportunity to integrate more Gygax canon and the spell chapter in Greyhawk Adventures gave him the perfect excuse.

    Discrepancies from the original campaign were revealed years later, but I'd say Sargent did a great job for a UK freelancer, writing for post-Gygax TSR, in the days before internet.

    Besides, do we really want a Circle of guys named Bigby, Rigby, Sigby, Digby, Vram, and Vim? It might as well be Snow White and Seven Dwarves. Wink
    GreySage

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    Thu Dec 17, 2015 11:49 am  

    Double post. Sorry.
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    Last edited by SirXaris on Thu Dec 17, 2015 11:53 am; edited 1 time in total
    GreySage

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    Thu Dec 17, 2015 11:51 am  

    EileenProphetofIstus wrote:
    I have always gone along with the newer supplements as Greyhawk developed over the decades and that is where the high level NPCs creep has taken place in my opinion. It never really occurred to me to use the older version and perhaps just take selective materials from latter supplements.


    Alternatively, you could consider that for all the new NPCs introduced in each new supplement (or, at least, many of them), an equal number of old NPCs have died off (from old age or by violence). The Flanaess is a dangerous place, after all. It makes sense that even high level NPCs would meet their end frequently, so new ones need to be introduced to take their place.

    Quote:
    In the campaign a war will be taking place between arcane and divine magic. I have yet to figure out what events will take place during this war, what the outcome might be and how it will affect the world afterwards. It was a prophecy given some time ago which will be coming true.
    ...
    Any suggestions by fellow Greyhawk fans would be greatly appreciated. I'm not looking to change the entire face of Greyhawk from this war but I am certainly up for some medium level permanent alterations to my world.


    I see this in a small portion of the Flanaess - say one nation, for example - but not across the entire WoG unless it was supported by the gods. If the gods become embroiled in a planar battle, it would spill over into the mortal realms via their worshippers. Perhaps Pholtus' constant harrassment and insults finally managed to overcome Boccob's usual uncaring attitude and the God of Mages exploded in anger precipitating a war between the two. Pholtus called for allies, so others like Wee Jas came in on Boccob's side. Now, their worshippers are taking sides and calling in allies. Of course, most of the arcane spellcasters are going to side with Boccob and Wee Jas' clerics, so it appears to mortals that it is a war between arcane and divine practitioners.

    Or, it could be caused by the machinations of one Arch Devil or another.

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    Thu Dec 17, 2015 3:21 pm  

    vestcoat wrote:
    CombatMedic wrote:
    Circle of Eight?

    It was not introduced until 1989, IIRC. It's easy enough to just say no such group exists.
    After all, it did not exist until it was made up by TSR designers after Gygax left, using mostly new and altered versions of a bunch of old characters who were once PCs or their NPC henchmen.

    No, the Circle of Eight was initially pure Gygax. See WG6 and Artifact of Evil, also the earlier Citadel in WG5. Sargent seems to be the only "second wave" designer that bothered to read EGG's novels and Dragon magazine articles and it was good of him to flesh things out and maintain consistency.

    Mordenkainen, Bigby, Tenser, Otto are all drawn from, and reasonably close to, descriptions in Gygax-era products. For the remainder of the Circle, Sargent drew upon the spell lists Jim Ward & company developed for Greyhawk Adventures, plus one personal invention, Jallarzi. Some justification was needed for devoting 6+ pages of a city boxed set to a group of international Gygaxian wizards and Sargent was likely inspired by Ward's remark on p51 of GA that each wizard had, "at one time, made their home in the city of Greyhawk." I suspect Sargent was looking for any opportunity to integrate more Gygax canon and the spell chapter in Greyhawk Adventures gave him the perfect excuse.

    Discrepancies from the original campaign were revealed years later, but I'd say Sargent did a great job for a UK freelancer, writing for post-Gygax TSR, in the days before internet.

    Besides, do we really want a Circle of guys named Bigby, Rigby, Sigby, Digby, Vram, and Vim? It might as well be Snow White and Seven Dwarves. Wink





    EDIT:

    Just to be clear, I think Sargent did great work. Not only that, but I am not concerned with making all later stuff in the setting match with a platonic ideal of how Gygax ran his home game that provided the basis for published GH.

    In my previous GH games, I have indeed assumed that the Co8 existed, and pretty much as described in the CoG boxed set. I like it!
    I just think it is not an essential in the way the Darlene map or its derivatives, and the core info found in the Folio, are essentials. GH was GH before the CoG box, and a game run without the Co8 would still be recognizably GH if it used what I consider core.

    This may call for a " what is core for you?" Tangent thread.


    I am repeating a lot.


    Last edited by CombatMedic on Thu Dec 17, 2015 10:50 pm; edited 2 times in total
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    Thu Dec 17, 2015 3:25 pm  

    IMHO the issue with FR was never the number of high level NPCs (as per the 1987 boxed set and 1E products there were probably as many as GH) but rather how they were used and abused by TSR / WotC.

    The biggest problem with high level NPCs is if people are writing novels about them saving the world all the time. Only then (if you accept those as canon) do PCs end up wandering around dealing with low level local menaces while the Elminsters of the world take all the glory.

    Greyhawk never experienced that problem and I've never seen high level NPCs as an issue. Most of them are rulers or have other concerns (developing the next Floating Disk spell) so why shouldn't they leave the day to day problems of the world to agents and hirelings (ie. PCs). Only when something really big happens should these people take the field (the oft-criticised opening of Vecna Lives! being a case in point).

    The benefits of more expendable folks dealing with the less world-shattering threats would be clear to these NPCs (Prince Thrommel's ultimate fate being an obvious lesson). Once the PCs reach these lofty heights then their concerns will in all likelihood have moved on from tomb robbing to dealing with more major threats themselves.

    Just my view but have never seen it as an issue in either Greyhawk or FR (if you ignore the profusion of novels in the latter).
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    Thu Dec 17, 2015 3:52 pm  

    Just to be clear, I really like the City of Greyhawk boxed set. I think Niles, Sargent, and Rose did a great job. It is my favorite city sourcebook(boxed set, in this case) for any game. I like the map. I really like Jallarzi and her pseudo dragon. The descriptions on the Co8 wizards are fun and well written.

    And I like a lot of From The Ashes, too. The Fading Lands and specialty priest stuff are very good and quite useful to me. I bought FtA in PDF form just to get that material, even though I run preWars.

    Love Greyhawk Adventures.

    So, I am not a Gygaxian purist.

    I am just saying that the Circle of Eight was not part of the Folio of the first boxed set. If you removed it from the setting, the setting would remain recognizably the same.
    After all, before the Circle of Eight( not Citadel) was created /assembled by those later designers (and Rary got a big level boost) GH was GH. And it was still GH afterward. The development of the Co8 did not make it suddenly something radically different, IMO.
    If the OP is concerned about a lot of high level NPCs, one thing to consider is removing the C08 as a group, whether or not some members remain part of the setting.
    GreySage

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    Thu Dec 17, 2015 4:09 pm  

    Flint wrote:
    (the oft-criticised opening of Vecna Lives! being a case in point).


    I've seen criticism of the fact that the Circle of Eight was brought back to life in subsequent supplements, but I don't recall any criticism of the opening of Vecna Lives! itself.

    What that opening did was establish the magnitude of the threat by swiftly murdering the most prominent high-level characters in the setting. And not just off stage, but in a way that the players get to participate in (since they're playing them). And then, from that point on in the adventure, the real PCs are on their own, without the Circle of Eight to help them.

    It seems like a pretty good way, in general, of handling high-level NPCs when they become problematic. You don't have to explain that they have better things to do than intervene in this particular crisis if they're dead.

    I think of this as sort of the Obi-Wan Kenobi or Dumbledore method. At low levels, high-level mentors are useful. PCs can learn from them, be given missions by them, use them to network and see the shape of the world, perhaps even rescue them once or twice. And then, ultimately, after they've served their purpose, the mentor NPCs can be killed off by the villain to make room for the PCs to take center stage.
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    Thu Dec 17, 2015 4:28 pm  

    Flint wrote:
    IMHO the issue with FR was never the number of high level NPCs (as per the 1987 boxed set and 1E products there were probably as many as GH) but rather how they were used and abused by TSR / WotC.

    The biggest problem with high level NPCs is if people are writing novels about them saving the world all the time. Only then (if you accept those as canon) do PCs end up wandering around dealing with low level local menaces while the Elminsters of the world take all the glory.

    Greyhawk never experienced that problem and I've never seen high level NPCs as an issue. Most of them are rulers or have other concerns (developing the next Floating Disk spell) so why shouldn't they leave the day to day problems of the world to agents and hirelings (ie. PCs). Only when something really big happens should these people take the field (the oft-criticised opening of Vecna Lives! being a case in point).

    The benefits of more expendable folks dealing with the less world-shattering threats would be clear to these NPCs (Prince Thrommel's ultimate fate being an obvious lesson). Once the PCs reach these lofty heights then their concerns will in all likelihood have moved on from tomb robbing to dealing with more major threats themselves.

    Just my view but have never seen it as an issue in either Greyhawk or FR (if you ignore the profusion of novels in the latter).


    Right, GH novels are few and had little or no direct effect on meta plot and setting development

    Quag Keep, which is sorta Norton's protoHawk. I liked it, I think. It's been ages.

    A few books by Rose Estes. I have never read any of these. But I did like her Endless Quest books. ;)

    Night Watch. Never read it. I have heard good things.

    Gord books, but some of these (most? ) could not become TSR canon in a straightforward way, because they were TriGee, right? And of course later events would not fit.
    I know some guys think certain elements from these may have influenced Sargent. Fair enough.
    I have also read that some people prefer the version of the Free City presented her, incomplete as it is, to the boxed set. (I would just combine the two as I pleased. )

    Some stuff by Paul Kemp, years later I think.

    And that's about it, right?Return to Quag Keep?


    Anyway, compare that to FR or Dragonlance.
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    Thu Dec 17, 2015 8:22 pm  

    Greyhawks high-level characters mostly seemed to have retired from adventuring. Most had some sort of social/business/governmental/ecclesiastical responsibilities which meant running off to the nearest dungeon was no longer an option. In other words, they had fun in their youth, but have grown out of it, though they might dust-off their gear in a really critical situation.

    Secondly, I never saw them as even being that numerous. True, most of the political leaders had high-levels, but that is easily ignored as political acumen is not measured that way. The City of Greyhawk set had a good number of important officials having relatively few experience levels (compared to everyone in Waterdeep being 10+ level).
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    Fri Dec 18, 2015 3:36 am  

    SirXaris wrote:
    EileenProphetofIstus wrote:
    In the campaign a war will be taking place between arcane and divine magic. I have yet to figure out what events will take place during this war, what the outcome might be and how it will affect the world afterwards. It was a prophecy given some time ago which will be coming true.
    ...
    Any suggestions by fellow Greyhawk fans would be greatly appreciated. I'm not looking to change the entire face of Greyhawk from this war but I am certainly up for some medium level permanent alterations to my world.


    I see this in a small portion of the Flanaess - say one nation, for example - but not across the entire WoG unless it was supported by the gods. If the gods become embroiled in a planar battle, it would spill over into the mortal realms via their worshippers. Perhaps Pholtus' constant harrassment and insults finally managed to overcome Boccob's usual uncaring attitude and the God of Mages exploded in anger precipitating a war between the two. Pholtus called for allies, so others like Wee Jas came in on Boccob's side. Now, their worshippers are taking sides and calling in allies. Of course, most of the arcane spellcasters are going to side with Boccob and Wee Jas' clerics, so it appears to mortals that it is a war between arcane and divine practitioners.

    Or, it could be caused by the machinations of one Arch Devil or another.

    SirXaris


    The original campaign notes were to have the war be initiated by Tharizdun and his clerics (behind the scenes of coarse). Tharizdun's goals of destruction have always remain so in my world. Alternatively other deities could be involved in starting the war as you suggested and limiting it to a more regional war rather than the entire Flanaess. I haven't officially introduced the war just have had the prophecy mentioned in the game. I want to work out the details before going ahead with it, plus the characters are entering Castle Greyhawk to plunder it and I would like the war to get started when they are towards the end of the module...so its likely this war scenario would take place in a year or so.

    I will start a new thread concerning this topic, but here are a few notes concerning it. It would be great if you and others could join me there to assist in coming up with a feasible scenario for this war.
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    Fri Dec 18, 2015 6:10 am  

    THARIZDUN


    He stands alone at the end of time, filled with the power of eternal darkness.
    (Monster Mythology, yo)


    And HEAVY METAL!!!

    Okay, had to get that out of my system.
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    Fri Dec 18, 2015 8:03 am  

    Flint wrote:
    IMHO the issue with FR was never the number of high level NPCs (as per the 1987 boxed set and 1E products there were probably as many as GH) but rather how they were used and abused by TSR / WotC.

    The biggest problem with high level NPCs is if people are writing novels about them saving the world all the time. Only then (if you accept those as canon) do PCs end up wandering around dealing with low level local menaces while the Elminsters of the world take all the glory...


    -Is something like this what you had in mind?

    http://www.escapistmagazine.com/forums/read/18.199359-The-worst-D-D-group-I-ever-heard-of

    DM Dennis - "A red dragon lands in front of you. It has a drow on its back. The drow casts a spell and you all fall asleep. You have a dream that you're flying, and you wake up the next morning in front of Evermeet."

    ...

    DM Dennis - Yep. A red dragon with a drow on its back lands next to you and blasts the trolls into ash. You all get 10,000 XP.

    Arturick - "Wow. We should shoot ourselves more often."

    DM Dennis - "Stop whining, Arturick."

    A few minutes and half a bottle of Jaegermeister later:

    DM Dennis - "Okay, you've arrived at the port town and you head to the inn."

    Arturick - "Well, my characters are going to sit in a corner and bask in their utter uselessness. Can I order my own drink, or do I need a red dragon to get it from the bar for me?"
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    Fri Dec 18, 2015 8:33 am  

    Hahahhahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha! Katanas.
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    Fri Dec 18, 2015 12:29 pm  

    rasgon wrote:
    Flint wrote:
    (the oft-criticised opening of Vecna Lives! being a case in point).


    I've seen criticism of the fact that the Circle of Eight was brought back to life in subsequent supplements, but I don't recall any criticism of the opening of Vecna Lives! itself.
    .
    .
    .
    .


    Can't recall where I saw it (possibly DnD Classics / DriveThru RPG) but I've seen the opening criticised for being a deus ex machina kind of mechanism where the ending is basically pre-ordained (which it is).

    Personally I think the opening scene is brilliant. It gives players a chance to (however briefly) be the Circle of Eight; as you say Rasgon it shows what they are facing; and the end of the scene where Halmadar announces "I'm Vecna!" is worth it on its own.

    When I first read the opening of that adventure, 25 years ago when Vecna was only known pretty mysteriously for his Eye and his Hand, I remember thinking what an impact that would have on players.

    My point was that the Circle of Eight should only gather for this sort of thing. Beyond that, they should be working in the background and using PCs as agents or busy with their own thing. Once high level NPCs are solving all the problems themselves then they become a problem and PCs become irrelevant.
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    Fri Dec 18, 2015 1:50 pm  

    CombatMedic, we seem to be on the same page and I get that GH is GH with or without the famous personages, but I want to correct a few misconceptions.
    CombatMedic wrote:
    (Mordenkainen) does not even show up in the Folio or the later WoG boxed set. I forget what level the Rogue's Gallery assigns, but I seem to recall it wasn't over the top. I may be thinking of one of the modules.
    Mordenkainen is mentioned in the Folio (19) and several times in the boxed set (as a likely companion encountered with the quasi-deties). Rogues Gallery and Dragon #37 both came out the same year as the Folio and the statistics and relationships of Mordy, Bigby, Tenser, etc. began to emerge. There's no doubt that these characters and their association exist in the earliest published sources.

    BTW, Mordenkainen, Bigby, and Tenser were 16/13/14 level, respectively, in Rogues Gallery. In Dragon #37 they were 20/18/19.
    CombatMedic wrote:

    After all, before the Circle of Eight( not Citadel) was created /assembled by those later designers (and Rary got a big level boost) GH was GH.

    Again, the Circle may have been codified by later designers, but Gygax absolutely created it and started the assembly.

    TMI: Tenser is a Circle member is WG6. Bigby, Mordenkainen, and "seven other mages and wizards" are Circle members in AoE. Melf is also present and identified as a servant of Mordenkainen earlier in the book, but it's unclear if he sits on the actual Circle. The Glossography mentions Otiluke and Bucknard in the same context as Tenser and Mordenkainen, making them likely candidates, but that's as far as Gygax got.
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    Fri Dec 18, 2015 4:54 pm  

    vestcoat wrote:
    CombatMedic, we seem to be on the same page and I get that GH is GH with or without the famous personages, but I want to correct a few misconceptions.
    CombatMedic wrote:
    (Mordenkainen) does not even show up in the Folio or the later WoG boxed set. I forget what level the Rogue's Gallery assigns, but I seem to recall it wasn't over the top. I may be thinking of one of the modules.
    Mordenkainen is mentioned in the Folio (19) and several times in the boxed set (as a likely companion encountered with the quasi-deties). Rogues Gallery and Dragon #37 both came out the same year as the Folio and the statistics and relationships of Mordy, Bigby, Tenser, etc. began to emerge. There's no doubt that these characters and their association exist in the earliest published sources.

    BTW, Mordenkainen, Bigby, and Tenser were 16/13/14 level, respectively, in Rogues Gallery. In Dragon #37 they were 20/18/19.
    CombatMedic wrote:

    After all, before the Circle of Eight( not Citadel) was created /assembled by those later designers (and Rary got a big level boost) GH was GH.

    Again, the Circle may have been codified by later designers, but Gygax absolutely created it and started the assembly.

    TMI: Tenser is a Circle member is WG6. Bigby, Mordenkainen, and "seven other mages and wizards" are Circle members in AoE. Melf is also present and identified as a servant of Mordenkainen earlier in the book, but it's unclear if he sits on the actual Circle. The Glossography mentions Otiluke and Bucknard in the same context as Tenser and Mordenkainen, making them likely candidates, but that's as far as Gygax got.


    Thanks for sharing. Good catch on the Folio.
    I had not realized that the Circle of Eight was ever referenced that early. I had thought only the Citadel was referenced that early, and not the later Circle. When I write Circle in this context, I mean the faction and not the NPCs taken as individuals.
    When did the Circle of Eight, by that name, with the roster of wizards shown in the City of Greyhawk boxed set, first appear in print?

    It may seem like hairsplitting.
    But I am interested in what the Citadel looked like, and how it differed in composition and purpose from the Circle of Eight ( as presented in City of Greyhawk.)

    I actually have Dragon #37, because I have this:www.amazon.com/Dragon-Magazine-Archive-PC/dp/B00002EIWS

    Good times.
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    Fri Dec 18, 2015 4:54 pm  

    vestcoat wrote:
    CombatMedic, we seem to be on the same page and I get that GH is GH with or without the famous personages, but I want to correct a few misconceptions.
    CombatMedic wrote:
    (Mordenkainen) does not even show up in the Folio or the later WoG boxed set. I forget what level the Rogue's Gallery assigns, but I seem to recall it wasn't over the top. I may be thinking of one of the modules.
    Mordenkainen is mentioned in the Folio (19) and several times in the boxed set (as a likely companion encountered with the quasi-deties). Rogues Gallery and Dragon #37 both came out the same year as the Folio and the statistics and relationships of Mordy, Bigby, Tenser, etc. began to emerge. There's no doubt that these characters and their association exist in the earliest published sources.

    BTW, Mordenkainen, Bigby, and Tenser were 16/13/14 level, respectively, in Rogues Gallery. In Dragon #37 they were 20/18/19.
    CombatMedic wrote:

    After all, before the Circle of Eight( not Citadel) was created /assembled by those later designers (and Rary got a big level boost) GH was GH.

    Again, the Circle may have been codified by later designers, but Gygax absolutely created it and started the assembly.

    TMI: Tenser is a Circle member is WG6. Bigby, Mordenkainen, and "seven other mages and wizards" are Circle members in AoE. Melf is also present and identified as a servant of Mordenkainen earlier in the book, but it's unclear if he sits on the actual Circle. The Glossography mentions Otiluke and Bucknard in the same context as Tenser and Mordenkainen, making them likely candidates, but that's as far as Gygax got.


    Thanks for sharing. Good catch on the Folio.
    I had not realized that the Circle of Eight was ever referenced that early. I had thought only the Citadel was referenced that early, and not the later Circle. When I write Circle in this context, I mean the faction and not the NPCs taken as individuals.
    When did the Circle of Eight, by that name, with the roster of wizards shown in the City of Greyhawk boxed set, first appear in print?

    It may seem like hairsplitting.
    But I am interested in what the Citadel looked like, and how it differed in composition and purpose from the Circle of Eight ( as presented in City of Greyhawk.)

    I actually have Dragon #37, because I have this:www.amazon.com/Dragon-Magazine-Archive-PC/dp/B00002EIWS

    Good times.
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    Fri Dec 18, 2015 10:54 pm  

    CombatMedic wrote:
    But I am interested in what the Citadel looked like, and how it differed in composition and purpose from the Circle of Eight ( as presented in City of Greyhawk.)


    I don't remember where I read this information, but I recall that the Citadel of Eight was the predecessor to the Circle of Eight. The Citadel included fighters, like Robilar, and clerics, like Rigby, as well as mages (including Mordenkainen). Mordenkainen later replaced the Citadel of Eight (named for his Obsidian Citadel in the Yatils) with the Circle of Eight, which contained only mages.

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    Sat Dec 19, 2015 7:22 am  

    SirXaris wrote:
    CombatMedic wrote:
    But I am interested in what the Citadel looked like, and how it differed in composition and purpose from the Circle of Eight ( as presented in City of Greyhawk.)


    I don't remember where I read this information, but I recall that the Citadel of Eight was the predecessor to the Circle of Eight. The Citadel included fighters, like Robilar, and clerics, like Rigby, as well as mages (including Mordenkainen). Mordenkainen later replaced the Citadel of Eight (named for his Obsidian Citadel in the Yatils) with the Circle of Eight, which contained only mages.

    SirXaris


    That is also my impression. I thought that the Circle of Eight was developed for the City of Greyhawk boxed set, and did not feature in earlier sources.
    No Circle, only the Citadel.

    I'm still not 100% sure if Vestcoat means that the Circle appeared in print before CoG, or just that some of the mages described as members appeared (with levels, stats, and not just as names associated with spells) in print earlier. The latter bit I knew. The former surprises me.

    I'm talking here about the real world publication history of GH, not about the later canon presentation and development of a game world history.
    When would anyone reading and using TSR products have first seen ''Circle of Eight" on the printed page? Is it in WG6?
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    Sat Dec 19, 2015 8:20 am  

    Mordenkainen's Fantastic Adventure (1984)

    Page 2:
    Quote:
    The Citadel of Eight is a serious force in the events of the WORLD OF GREYHAWK‘“, and the four characters [Mordenkainen, Bigby, Yrag, Riggby] are amongst the eight principals of the fortress.



    Page 4:
    Quote:
    Mordenkainen the Mage and his boon companions, Yrag, Riggby, and Bigby (see APPENDIX 3 for complete character information) have been tempted to explore Maure Castle because of the widespread rumors concerning the “unopenable” doors. Preferring not to attract attention, they have traveled from their abode, the Citadel of Eight, upon Mordenkainen’s carpet of flying.



    Isle of the Ape (1985)

    Page 6:
    Quote:
    High above the Free City of Greyhawk, somewhere upon the lonely south coast of the Nyr Dyv, you and your associates trekked to answer a summons that could not be taken lightly. Adventurers of your exalted status know much that lesser individuals do not. The call issued by most secret and occult channels. It was for only the best and most powerful of Those Who Serve. It came from a Fellow of the Circle of Eight, but which of that August Body, none of you knew until just a moment ago. In answer, each of you set out from his or her home to the teeming warrens of Greyhawk City. In a secret rendezvous you met your fellows for the first time, and as a group you made the journey north and came to the hidden fortress of Unknown Depths. Now each of you is aware that the Summoner was the renowned Tenser, boon companion of many of the most redoubtable adventurers in the Flanaess and one who is privy to the Council of the shadowy figures who are the determiners of the course the world will take.


    Plus, under Warnes Starcoat's character relationship section on page 27:
    Quote:
    Wishes to become member of the Circle of Eight


    ... which Roger E. Moore finally made happen in Return of the Eight (1998).


    Artifact of Evil (1986)

    Page 50:
    Quote:
    "How can little folk such as we hope to do what deities cannot? Rest assured, my good friends, that those far beyond our powers ask the same question. Still the Hierophants of the Cabal, Golden Dawn, and Rosy Cruciform stand ready to serve, as do high priests and arch-mages, the circles of each Archdruid, the tiers of the Circle of Eight, high and low, prince and peasant."


    Page 58:
    Quote:
    "There are two servants of the Circle of Eight here, agents who have no little skill and power in human terms. One is a dweomercrafter of high standing, the other a knight of renown who left off clerical studies to take up sword and lance against Evil," the druid explained. "This, and that the two are sworn foes of the Suloise cause and the dark Tharizdun, is all that I have been told."


    Pages 58-59:
    Quote:
    "The Circle of Eight are known to me, Curley. Those who sit on its uppermost tier are always seeking after treasure... for whatever purposes they might have. Could it be that these two were after the legendary city and its fabled hill of gemstones?" Gellor smiled at the group. "That, my comrades, would explain their purported knowledge of the Suss."


    Page 70:
    Quote:
    Gord saw that both wore the silver unicorn horn of the goddess Ehlonna, and the green of an oak to symbolize a unity with nature. These were the two sent from the Circle of Eight to assist them with their quest for the second part of the evil artifact!


    Page 71:
    Quote:
    "Well, let's not stand around with our thumbs up you know where," she said sarcastically. "I am Deirdre, a knight of Hardby and minion of True Womanhood. Despite that, I serve the Circle of Eight this day, as does my boon companion, Oscar, a wizard from the Gynarchy's good lands as well."


    Page 321:
    Quote:
    Scattered throughout these stout companies were many minor spellcasters of both clerical and magical sort, while Mordenkainen stands with the archmage Bigby and the seven other mages and wizards who, with Bigby, formed the Magical Circle of Eight.


    Pages 322-323:
    Quote:
    Mordenkainen alone was more than a match for the archmage Ormuz, and together with Bigby he held the enemy in check. Thus, the seven others of the Circle were free to roam the field. With their power they brought down the trolls, slew the chimeras, and sent the great ogres down into death.


    Come Endless Darkness (1988)

    Page 130:
    Quote:
    Gord, Gellor, Chert, and Greenleaf were ranged around one side of the round table in the room, while the two cloaked men were opposite the four. Both of them now threw their hoods back just a little. Anyone viewing the room through a spy hole would still not be able to distinguish them, but the four others could see their eyes and lips. One was the wizard Allton, from the Circle of Eight. The second man was a high priest named Timmil, who was associated with Tenser the Archmage.
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    Sat Dec 19, 2015 9:19 am  

    So it looks as if the first TSR published reference to the Circle of Eight comes in 1985, in Isle of the Ape.
    Which means I was correct that the Circle of Eight is not in the Folio or the WoG boxed set. It is introduced in a later module.

    But I was mistaken in thinking it was introduced in 1989. Gygax wrote Isle of the Ape. Therefore the Circle is indeed a name and concept introduced in print, in a GH game product, by Gygax. 85, not 89. It really is a Gygax thing, after all.

    The version that appears in City of Greyhawk was probably created by the designers of that boxed set (Sargent, Rose, Niles) just as I suggested, yes? It seems that they took what came before, filled in a lot of stuff, modified and adjusted, and created their own take on the Circle of Eight.


    No Allton. Of course, the Gord novels are not game products, and the last one was not even a TSR publication. There's a funny relationship between those books and the game line, isn't there?
    I have only read Saga of Old City. But my wife contributed a copy of Artifact of Evil to the shelves here, so maybe I will read that too...
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    Sat Dec 19, 2015 4:39 pm  

    It does seem that Allton is a member of the upper tier of the Circle of Eight, like Bigby is, rather than one of the Circle's lesser members like the henchmen from Vecna Lives!.

    Quote:
    Allton was, after all, one of the greatest of dweomercraefters; only a handful of spellbinders anywhere surpassed him. One was here [the evil wizard-priest Gravestone]. Mordenkainen worked elsewhere, as did Tenser, the one who had sent Allton. None of the dark ones other than Gravestone came close to his power. Sigildark had approached the mark, but that one was no more. Bigby was perhaps on a par. There was one of awful weal who was likewise, and one of chaos far to the west. There were none other than that.


    Interesting detail: Allton carries two curved-bladed Baklunish-style knives, of dwarven craftsmanship and "thrice-enspelled by the legendary dweomercraefter Yartsenag seven centuries past."

    Allton is described as "lion-maned" at one point, and as an expert in "knowledge of energies," among many other talents. He's definitely true neutral in alignment. If I were going to pretend he was one of the canon Circle of Eight, it would probably be Rary. If you want Rary to only be a medium in your campaign, replacing him with Allton would make sense.
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    Sat Dec 19, 2015 4:43 pm  

    rasgon wrote:
    It does seem that Allton is a member of the upper tier of the Circle of Eight, like Bigby is, rather than one of the Circle's lesser members like the henchmen from Vecna Lives!.

    Quote:
    Allton was, after all, one of the greatest of dweomercraefters; only a handful of spellbinders anywhere surpassed him. One was here [the evil wizard-priest Gravestone]. Mordenkainen worked elsewhere, as did Tenser, the one who had sent Allton. None of the dark ones other than Gravestone came close to his power. Sigildark had approached the mark, but that one was no more. Bigby was perhaps on a par. There was one of awful weal who was likewise, and one of chaos far to the west. There were none other than that.


    Interesting detail: Allton carries two curved-bladed Baklunish-style knives, of dwarven craftsmanship and "thrice-enspelled by the legendary dweomercraefter Yartsenag seven centuries past."

    Allton is described as "lion-maned" at one point, and as an expert in "knowledge of energies," among many other talents. He's definitely true neutral in alignment. If I were going to pretend he was one of the canon Circle of Eight, it would probably be Rary. If you want Rary to only be a medium in your campaign, replacing him with Allton would make sense.


    Hmm, that does sound fun.


    I'd comment further about Mordenkainen and the Circle of Eight, but it will grow the tangent too much. Probably better for my next thread, about Neutrality and "The Balance" in GH.
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    Sat Dec 19, 2015 4:52 pm  

    On topic, that excerpt does give some indication of what Gary Gygax thought the appropriate number of mages of Bigby's level or higher was.

    There are only eight in all the world:

    Allton (neutral)
    Gravestone (probably neutral evil)
    Mordenkainen (neutral)
    Tenser (lawful good)
    Bigby
    Sigildark (evil)
    Unnamed good wizard
    Unnamed chaotic wizard "far to the west." [Emirikol?]

    The other members of the Circle of Eight must be of lower level.
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    Sun Dec 20, 2015 2:39 am  

    rasgon wrote:
    On topic, that excerpt does give some indication of what Gary Gygax thought the appropriate number of mages of Bigby's level or higher was.

    There are only eight in all the world:

    Allton (neutral)
    Gravestone (probably neutral evil)
    Mordenkainen (neutral)
    Tenser (lawful good)
    Bigby
    Sigildark (evil)
    Unnamed good wizard
    Unnamed chaotic wizard "far to the west." [Emirikol?]

    The other members of the Circle of Eight must be of lower level.


    Where did you find this quote, I would like to read the reference?
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    Sun Dec 20, 2015 3:22 am  

    Sorry, that was from Come Endless Darkness, the fight scene between Allton, Timmil, Pazuzeus, Shabiri, and Gravestone.
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    Mon Dec 21, 2015 7:13 pm  

    rasgon wrote:
    Sorry, that was from Come Endless Darkness, the fight scene between Allton, Timmil, Pazuzeus, Shabiri, and Gravestone.


    Pages 256-257.
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    Wed Dec 23, 2015 7:23 am  

    From my point of view I don't think there are too many high level NPCs in the Greyhawk setting. I actually like having high level NPCs (good, evil, and neutral) because they open up numerous opportunities for game play at all levels. At low levels PCs can be sent on adventures by mid to high level NPCs. At mid level the PCs can be drawn into further adventures by the NPCs and start to experience political and social events beyond typical dungeon crawling. By the time the PCs are high level themselves their interaction with those high level NPCs can change quite a bit to either allies against powerful Outer Planar foes or to direct foes. Throughout I think the high level NPCs offer great opportunities for roleplaying.
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    Wed Dec 23, 2015 5:05 pm  

    EileenProphetofIstus,

    There are as many (or as little) high level NPCs in Greyhawk as you want. How you handle that is partly how you conceive of the PCs vs. the rest of the world and which edition of D&D you are playing.

    I don't know what version you are currently rocking so I can't talk about specifics but here is how I am handling NPCs in my 5e game.

    Most NPC interactions will be roleplay. I will give the NPCs motivations, goals, and maybe a quirk or two to make them memorable. Most of these folks the PCs could kill at the drop of a hat, where they so inclined.

    Some will use some basic stats from the 5e MM (e.g., town guards, a priest that can cast spells, thugs, etc.), these are folks that could wind up in combat with the PCs and would put up a fight. Could even take the PCs depending on their level.

    Major NPCs will essentially be built like a PC. These will be rare. Most low level PCs are just not going to interact with the mucky-mucks of the Circle of Eight, the Old Faith, or some other powerful individual. Most of these folks are going to be too busy advancing or defending their own interests to give the PCs the time of day.

    So, sure the PCs might catch a glimpse of Tenser flying into town on his flying carpet. But that is going to be some descriptive text while they go take care of business.

    In my campaign the PCs will become movers and shakers if they want to. When they get to high enough level where they come to the notice of the more powerful forces of Oerth, well then things will get interesting.

    PCs are going to be rock stars in my campaign. Most everyone else is going to be "normal."

    That means a lot of folks that have been given PC levels in published product might not have them in my version of Greyhawk.
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    Thu Dec 24, 2015 8:06 am  

    I very occasionally use a high level NPC in the campaign. When I do its always been background dressing or to help character development when someone is creating an extensive background. Throwing in a name here or there sometimes makes it feel Greyhawky.

    The reason I brought the High Level NPC issue up was it just seems that when I look at supplements there were quite a few individuals beyond the Circle of Eight that go somewhat unseen. The may be temple leaders, those in charge of a magic institution, that sort of thing. It was more of an observation than anything.

    The other reason I brought it up I will address in another thread I had started about a war between Divine and Arcane magic which I will be using to re-kick off an old campaign.
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    Thu Dec 24, 2015 11:30 pm  

    Ah, makes sense.

    I agree that over time, high level NPCs start to crowd the design space. Part of this is as more stuff is written, more NPCs get created.

    Some of it is related to editions. For example, 3e/Pathfinder monster/npc design requires NPCs to "level-up" to keep pace with the PCs. If they don't, the BBE from level 6 would be a laughable annoyance when the party is level 12.

    It sounds like you handle high level NPCs just fine, they are there as a resource or an hindrance. And name dropping is a time honored tradition. PCs should drive the action.

    Personally, I am going to a strip levels on a lot of PCs that just don't need them. City of Greyhawk is full of fully stated NPCs that really should be just names, extras, and RP encounters. If the PCs are killing all the inhabitants of Greyhawk City, then they are going to have bigger problems.
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    Sun Dec 27, 2015 10:17 pm  

    CombatMedic wrote:

    The version that appears in City of Greyhawk was probably created by the designers of that boxed set (Sargent, Rose, Niles) just as I suggested, yes? It seems that they took what came before, filled in a lot of stuff, modified and adjusted, and created their own take on the Circle of Eight.

    First off, I think we can credit TSR's CoE entirely to Sargent and disregard Niles and Rose. Looking at the CoG credits, Douglas Niles only wrote Gem of the Flanaess. Sargent and Rose wrote FFF. Twenty-five years of obsessively reading and collecting every one of Sargent's FRPG products leaves no doubt in my mind that the Circle of Eight text in FFF is 100% Sargent. In fact, Sargent's prose and naming conventions seem to fill most of the book. He was certainly the only author of the three to be well versed in the TSR Gygax novels and Dragon articles, as the references to Greyhawk's obsolete coinage, the invasion of the Shield Lands, the Circle of Eight, etc. are drenched in his writing style.

    As for his bibliography, it's clear he followed Gygax's published works as far as he could, then filled in with the wizards from Greyhawk Adventures. As stated in my previous post, the matching wizards in GA and FFF are no coincidence. Sargent even mentions Drawmij and Tenser's penchant for alteration spells.

    Quote:
    No Allton. Of course, the Gord novels are not game products, and the last one was not even a TSR publication.

    Actually, the last FIVE novels were not TSR publications, including the one with Allton. TSR only published the first two Gord novels. Even if Sargent wanted to use him, he's a Trigee character.

    With all of this talk about the Citadel and the Circle, it's useful to distinguish the different phases in their evolution. Much of what follows is common knowledge, but useful to summarize.

    ------------Long tangent---------------

    First, there's Gygax's Citadel of Eight from his home campaign. This included Mordenkainen, Bigby, Yrag, Rigby, Felnorith, Digby (a dwarf), Vram & Vim (both elves). Digby is referred to in some interviews as Zigby and it should be noted that wikipedia confuses them as two different people. Vim is sometimes called Vin.

    Then there's Gygax's officially published version of the Citadel from WG5. Only Mordenkainen, Bigby, Riggby, and Yrag are enumerated therein. He seemed to quickly change his mind about publishing the Citadel and replaced it with the Circle of Eight in both WG6 and the new novel line. (Maybe a dwarf named Digby was just too silly for the general public?)

    Later authors kept both organizations, giving us a TSR/WotC version of the Citadel, best detailed in the first Living Greyhawk Journal (#0). The official founders became Mordenkainen, Bigby, Robilar, Riggby, Yrag, Tenser, Serten, and Otis. Later members included Melf, Quij, Felnorith, Terik, and Murlynd.

    Gygax's Circle of Eight exists only in published form, with no roots in the original campaign. Mordenkainen, Bigby, and Tenser are the only definite members in TSR canon. Allton was added in the New Infinities novels. Melf is possible, but more likely a member of Circle's lower tier, where Oscar Longhand may serve as well. Gygax may have envisioned Warnes Starcoat as a future member. Otiluke and Bucknard are good candidates, both because Gygax mentions in context with Mordenkainen and Tenser in the Glossography and because they match TSR/WotC canon.

    Finally, there's TSR's version of the Circle. Sargent used WG6 and AoE as his primary sources with Greyhawk Adventures to make up the difference. According to Artifact of Evil, a ninth wizard was needed, so Sargent invented Jalarzi to round things out. My only gripe with Sargent's list is that Otto isn't high enough level to cast his Irresistible Dance. It should be noted that Sargent's Greyhawk also altered some related NPC's from Gygax canon: Serten became a mysterious archmage (Ivid the Undying) capable of casting his Spell Immunity instead of the mid-level cleric in Rogues Gallery, Prince Melf became the leader of an order of knights with no explicit ties to Mordenkainen or the Circle (Campaign Book), and Felnorith became a marshal of the Obsidian Citadel (FFF), closer to the Lord in AoE than the Citadel member in Gygax's home campaign.

    The year after CoG was released, WGR1 authors Mobley and Brown were inspired to create the rival Ring of Five using Zagig, the Black One, and some (at the time) unused names from the PHB: Leomund, Melf, and Serten. Most of these turned out to be poor choices and fans on the early internet soon balked and proposed better candidates, some of whom were eventually canonized to various degrees.

    Also in 1990, David "Zeb" Cook killed the entire Circle in WGA4. Subsequent authors either ignored this event or assumed the entire Circle was quickly cloned. A short adventure in WGR2 was the only official recognition of the Circle's death in WGA4 for many years.

    In 1991, David Cook again killed some Circle members, Otiluke and Tenser, this time in the Wars boxed set. Strangely, he made no mention of their earlier slaying. The 1992 collector's cards mistakenly added Bigby to the deceased. In FtA, Sargent redubbed the Circle of Eight the Circle of Five and clarified that Bigby had only been badly wounded.

    In 1998, Roger Moore brought the Circle up to Eight again with the additions of Warnes Starcoat, Theodain Eriason, and Alhamazad the Wise. Tenser was also revived, but choose to leave the Circle. Meanwhile, the Greyhawk Player's Guide shed some light on the Circle's origins for the first time, listing Leomund and Bucknard as early members.

    Trivia: Tenser also appears in the 1998 Adventurer's Guild module Ill Omens. Although set in 591CY, his stats match those in the CoG boxed set and don't reflect his clone revived in RotE.

    The following year in Oerth Jounral #10, Lenard Lakofka attributed Leomund's early membership in the Circle to an imposter.

    LGJ#0 remained silent on the Leomund debate, but notes that Tenser joined the Circle later and that the ninth, unnamed, founder of the Circle abandoned Oerth to explore other planes of existence (6). My suggestion for the nameless founder would be Keoghtom. He's the most wizardly of Gygax's quasi-deities, the closest to TN in alignment, and the Glossography cites him as a close friend of Mordenkainen. Finally, the Player's Guide describes him as a "devil-may-care hero fond of exploring the Outer Planes" (26), which supports the departure described in LGJ0.


    Last edited by vestcoat on Mon Dec 28, 2015 12:32 pm; edited 1 time in total
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    Mon Dec 28, 2015 8:32 am  

    Great background info vestcoat. I agree with you on the author of the CoE in FFF being Sargent. I'd be very surprised if it turned out that he didn't write the entire CoE portion in the book. When I first read FFF I was surprised that Mordenkainen wasn't the highest level wizard in the circle considering his fame across many sources and history with Gygax in particular. Having him three levels lower than Rary and equal with Tenser didn't quite make sense with me. Since then I have also thought it a little bit implausible that wizards of levels 20 (Mordenkainen+Tenser), 23 (Rary), and 18 (Bigby) would treat wizards of much lower level (Otiluke, Nystul, Drawmij all 16th level and Otto at 14th level) as equals in a group like the circle. Would they use wizards of their level as henchmen, apprentices, or lackeys, yes. However, I don't see people as powerful as arch mages treating lesser mages as equals.
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    Mon Dec 28, 2015 9:15 am  

    Indeed, great help with the development/ publication history!

    Thanks, Vestcoat.
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    Mon Dec 28, 2015 12:10 pm  

    xo42 wrote:
    When I first read FFF I was surprised that Mordenkainen wasn't the highest level wizard in the circle considering his fame across many sources and history with Gygax in particular. Having him three levels lower than Rary and equal with Tenser didn't quite make sense with me. Since then I have also thought it a little bit implausible that wizards of levels 20 (Mordenkainen+Tenser), 23 (Rary), and 18 (Bigby) would treat wizards of much lower level (Otiluke, Nystul, Drawmij all 16th level and Otto at 14th level) as equals in a group like the circle. Would they use wizards of their level as henchmen, apprentices, or lackeys, yes. However, I don't see people as powerful as arch mages treating lesser mages as equals.

    I've always liked the fact that just because Mordenkainen is the most famous wizard doesn't mean he's the highest level in the Circle. It stands to reason that a reclusive wizard like Rary could advance further in his studies than a politically active string puller like Mordenkainen. The levels for Mordy, Bigby, and Tenser are consistent with Dragon #37, although Tenser got a +1.

    I also like the broad level range. A supergroup comprised entirely of archmages would be more at home in FR. In Greyhawk's theme of wheels within wheels, political connections and information networks are more important than who can cast the most Meteor Swarms. Sure, Otiluke can't cast ninth-level spells, but he's a Directing Oligarch. Otto isn't going to win any wizard duels, but no other wizard is ever going to be as close to the art, music, and culinary worlds (and his henchman is one of the highest-level priestesses of Boccob in the Flanaess!). Drawmij's undersea network is second to none and he probably dabbles in chronomancy.

    Regardless, all of these wizards can cast 30+ spells a day and own a grip of magic items. The initiative roll is probably more important than one or two ninth-level spells.
    GreySage

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    Mon Dec 28, 2015 2:49 pm  

    Rob Kuntz has a little bit to say about the origins of the Citadel of Eight on his blog:

    Quote:
    Gary was very much interested in building his own army based around what he would soon name the Circle of Eight. Later on this now legendary edifice--built about its members and their forces, and then collectively known as the Golden Horde--was to be located on the original outdoor environs map. Because of his overriding desire to build an army, there came into being his rash of NPCs. This nucleus ensured that he would have the muscle and leadership needed for continuing to build and control his imagined future forces.


    vestcoat wrote:
    It should be noted that Sargent's Greyhawk also altered some related NPC's from Gygax canon: Serten became a mysterious archmage (Ivid the Undying) capable of casting his Spell Immunity instead of the mid-level cleric in Rogues Gallery


    I pretend that the "archmage Serten" mentioned in Ivid the Undying and Greyhawk Ruins is an older relative of the cleric Serten from Rogues Gallery.

    Quote:
    Prince Melf became the leader of an order of knights with no explicit ties to Mordenkainen or the Circle (Campaign Book), and Felnorith became a marshal of the Obsidian Citadel (FFF), closer to the Lord in AoE than the Citadel member in Gygax's home campaign.


    Eraj and Felnorith both appeared in Artifact of Evil, pages 323 and 324, which mentioned that they were mounted on griffons and that they were vassals of Mordenkainen. As you said, the version of them that appeared in The City of Greyhawk boxed set seems a direct translation of the detail they're given in Artifact of Evil, since again they're both fighter Lords mounted on griffons, working as vassals of Mordenkainen.

    It's probable that Eraj was originally meant to be a variant spelling of Yrag, since it fits Gygax's MO of disguising anagrams by substituting similar letters. I think it's conceivable that they're still the same even in published works. In Mordenkainen's Fantastic Adventure, Yrag is a 9th level fighter. Eraj is a 12th level fighter in City of Greyhawk, dwelling with Mordenkainen in his Citadel. The Adventure Begins says that Yrag "left the Citadel of Eight many years ago, after the Greyhawk Wars" and has returned to Greyhawk after many years absence. He is now a 13th level fighter. The timeline and his level advancement fits, I think, so it's possible that Yrag and Eraj are the same person.

    Quote:
    The year after CoG was released, WGR1 authors Mobley and Brown were inspired to create the rival Ring of Five using Zagig, the Black One, and some (at the time) unused names from the PHB: Leomund, Melf, and Serten. Most of these turned out to be poor choices and fans on the early internet soon balked and proposed better candidates, some of whom were eventually canonized to various degrees.


    The concept of the Ring of Five eventually evolved into Gary Holian's Company of Seven, an adventuring party associated with Zagyg, comprising the setting's most prominent quasi-deities.

    Quote:
    In 1991, David Cook again killed some Circle members, Otiluke and Tenser, this time in the Wars boxed set. Strangely, he made no mention of their earlier slaying.


    I think because it had already been established that they had been brought back to life via clone spells, both in Treasures of Greyhawk and in Dragon Magazine, and because this additional part of their history wasn't really relevant to the story being told in Greyhawk Wars.

    Quote:
    In 1998, Roger Moore brought the Circle up to Eight again with the additions of Warnes Starcoat, Theodain Eriason, and Alhamazad the Wise. Tenser was also revived, but choose to leave the Circle. Meanwhile, the Greyhawk Player's Guide shed some light on the Circle's origins for the first time, listing Leomund and Bucknard as early members.


    It's notable that Moore also wrote "The House on Summoner Court" for SHADIS Magazine #50, also reproduced in Oerth Journal #7. This scenario gives the PCs an opportunity to explore Otiluke's former home after his death, and potentially purchase it. It also included a version of Erac's Cousin that conflicts somewhat with Erik Mona's later contention that he had become the Unnamable Hierarch of the Horned Society (though I think Mona's version is preferable to Moore's version, and in theory the Unnamable Hierarch of the Horned Society could still show up at Otiluke's house disguised as an elf).

    Quote:
    The following year in Oerth Jounral #10, Lenard Lakofka attributed Leomund's early membership in the Circle to an imposter.

    LGJ#0 remained silent on the Leomund debate, but notes that Tenser joined the Circle later and that the ninth, unnamed, founder of the Circle abandoned Oerth to explore other planes of existence (6). My suggestion for the nameless founder would be Keoghtom.


    Note that Leomund's biography in Oerth Journal #10 had Leomund abandoning Oerth during the Greyhawk Wars to dwell on another world, Dyrth, before eventually returning to the Spindrift Isles after the Wars were safely over. It seems a safe assumption that the reference to a founder who left to explore other planes was meant to mean Leomund, though if you accept the Oerth Journal #10 account in full it must have been the imposter, "Guy Gas," instead.

    You could, of course, invent a scenario in which Keoghtom was a member of the Circle of Eight, but it would mean ignoring both the Player's Guide account that Leomund had been a former member and the Oerth Journal #10 account that contradicted it, unless "Guy Gas" was actually a guise of Keoghtom. Admittedly, I'd personally rather accept that Keoghtom briefly impersonated Leomund than accept a character named "Guy Gas."
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    Mon Dec 28, 2015 5:33 pm  

    rasgon wrote:

    I think because it had already been established that they had been brought back to life via clone spells, both in Treasures of Greyhawk and in Dragon Magazine, and because this additional part of their history wasn't really relevant to the story being told in Greyhawk Wars.

    Treasures of Greyhawk and the second Wizards Three weren't released until June and December 1992, respectively, well after the Wars boxed set (Dec. 1991). Absolutely nothing had been said about the Circle's dramatic demise between WGA4 and Wars, so it is very strange that Cook didn't mention it. As far as I can tell, TSR seemed to officially ignore or deconinize WGA4 until the 1998 revival. Neither Cook nor Sargent nor Pryor ever mention the Circle's death, only Ed Greenwood and the freelancer Jack Barker. Rary's stats in WGR3 don't reflect any cloning, which could be an oversight, but it's telling that his extensive history doesn't mention it.

    Quote:
    Note that Leomund's biography in Oerth Journal #10 had Leomund abandoning Oerth during the Greyhawk Wars to dwell on another world, Dyrth, before eventually returning to the Spindrift Isles after the Wars were safely over. It seems a safe assumption that the reference to a founder who left to explore other planes was meant to mean Leomund, though if you accept the Oerth Journal #10 account in full it must have been the imposter, "Guy Gas," instead.

    You could, of course, invent a scenario in which Keoghtom was a member of the Circle of Eight, but it would mean ignoring both the Player's Guide account that Leomund had been a former member and the Oerth Journal #10 account that contradicted it, unless "Guy Gas" was actually a guise of Keoghtom. Admittedly, I'd personally rather accept that Keoghtom briefly impersonated Leomund than accept a character named "Guy Gas."

    LGJ0 leaves two founding seats of the Circle empty. Leomund or Guy Gas fills one, but we still need one more. Tenser replaced the unnamed founder in 574, which is rather early for Leomund to be leaving for the Wars. Also the Player's Guide already said that Otiluke replaced Leomund in 576 (23). So, the explaner explorer mentioned in LGJ0 p6 can't be Leomund and we need another wizard anyway. Keoghtom fits the bill perfectly, from his stats in the Glossography to the description in the Players Guide (26) and LGJ0.

    ---CoE timeline---

    571CY founders: Mordnekainen, Bigby, Otto, Rary, Nystul, Drawmij, Bucknard (all LGJ0), Leomund/Guy Gas (Players Guide/OJ10), Keoghtom (me)

    574CY: Keoghtom --> Tenser (LGJ0)

    576CY: Leomund --> Otiluke (Player's Guide)

    579CY: Bucknard vanishes (PG)

    581CY: Jallarzi replaces Bucknard (PG)
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    Mon Dec 28, 2015 6:19 pm  

    So when does Vecna/Halmadar kill most of the Circle?

    582 CY?

    Edit: Greywiki says 581, months after Jallarzi joins.
    GreySage

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    Mon Dec 28, 2015 6:32 pm  

    vestcoat wrote:
    Treasures of Greyhawk and the second Wizards Three weren't released until June and December 1992, respectively


    I recall this being addressed in the letters column of Dragon Magazine originally, though I couldn't tell you which issue at the moment.

    Quote:
    LGJ0 leaves two founding seats of the Circle empty.


    Ah, so it does. This makes sense, actually, since Tenser wasn't a founding member of the Circle/Citadel in the original Lake Geneva Greyhawk campaign.

    Quote:
    Tenser replaced the unnamed founder in 574, which is rather early for Leomund to be leaving for the Wars. Also the Player's Guide already said that Otiluke replaced Leomund in 576 (23).


    I phrased that badly; I meant Leomund had departed before the wars, not during them. Oerth Journal #10 has Guy Gas retiring in 576, which fits, and has Leomund departing Oerth for Dyrth (after a brief stop in the ancient Suel Imperium) on 1 Brewfest 580. Obviously well after the unnamed founder's departure.
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    Mon Dec 28, 2015 8:41 pm  

    [/quote]
    I also like the broad level range. A supergroup comprised entirely of archmages would be more at home in FR. In Greyhawk's theme of wheels within wheels, political connections and information networks are more important than who can cast the most Meteor Swarms. Sure, Otiluke can't cast ninth-level spells, but he's a Directing Oligarch. Otto isn't going to win any wizard duels, but no other wizard is ever going to be as close to the art, music, and culinary worlds (and his henchman is one of the highest-level priestesses of Boccob in the Flanaess!). Drawmij's undersea network is second to none and he probably dabbles in chronomancy.

    Regardless, all of these wizards can cast 30+ spells a day and own a grip of magic items. The initiative roll is probably more important than one or two ninth-level spells.[/quote]

    I agree with your comment on the broad level range within the circle and personally I really like the way the members of the circle are laid out including their backgrounds. Nystul is a personal favorite, especially his spells. I also agree that simply being able to cast 9th level spells doesn't necessarily put you miles beyond a wizard who can only cast 8th level spell...to a point. However, the ability to cast 9th level spells does give a wizard access to abilities/powers that not only far exceed a lesser wizard, but in fact test the boundaries of the game. Gate and Wish in particular give a wizard powers that far exceed anything an 8th level spell can match. Time Stop, Mordenkainen's Disjunction, and Meteor Swarm are also pretty spectacular in different ways. Could an 16th level wizard ambush a 18th level one and kill him, yes. Would he get that chance though, possibly not. Also using Rary and Otiluke as an example (just by the difference in their levels), it's hard to imagine a fair fight between characters 7 levels apart. Would a 1st level PC be able to stand up to an 8th level one? Or going farther, could a 7th level PC stand against a 14th level one? Again it's not that I don't think Mordenkainen, Tenser, Rary, and Bigby wouldn't associate and work with the other members of the circle, it's just that as arch mages I think by their powers, knowledge, and abilities they wouldn't necessarily treat them as equals. Maybe within the circle there is an inner circle much like within the directing oligarchy in the City of Greyhawk. Regardless, as we have seen even within the confines of the circle there are grudges (Rary and Otiluke) and major differences in opinion between good vs. evil and long-term strategy (Mordenkainen and Tenser). On a side note I'm loving this discussion Happy
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    Mon Dec 28, 2015 8:47 pm  

    rasgon wrote:
    I recall this being addressed in the letters column of Dragon Magazine originally, though I couldn't tell you which issue at the moment.

    Hmmm... PDF searches for "Vecna" "clone" and "cloned" don't bring up anything about the CoE in the Dragon archives besides the Wizards Three reference. Zeb addresses his Verbobonc contradictions, but that's it.

    Shocking off-topic side note: the original Dungeon writer's guidelines in Dragon #111 (July 1986) contain the following:
    "We ask that module designers not locate their adventures in the WORLD OF GREYHAWK Fantasy Setting and avoid using particular personalities, countries, politics, and so forth that relate directly to that game universe (e.g., Mordenkainen, St. Cuthbert, Vecna, etc.).
    We will reject modules of this sort without reading them."

    Ouch! They really were trying to kill GH for a period after ousting Gygax.
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    Mon Dec 28, 2015 8:51 pm  

    Wow.

    Rejecting GH modules out of hand? Lame!
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    Tue Dec 29, 2015 9:08 am  

    It's crazy that they were so focused on squashing Greyhawk during that period. I guess I can understand trying to distance the company from Gygax's ideas and home campaign in light of the issues at the time, but who knows what great material was lost during those years. At least it only lasted until 1989.
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    Tue Dec 29, 2015 5:16 pm  

    vestcoat wrote:
    LGJ0 leaves two founding seats of the Circle empty. Leomund or Guy Gas fills one, but we still need one more. Tenser replaced the unnamed founder in 574, which is rather early for Leomund to be leaving for the Wars. Also the Player's Guide already said that Otiluke replaced Leomund in 576 (23). So, the explaner explorer mentioned in LGJ0 p6 can't be Leomund and we need another wizard anyway. Keoghtom fits the bill perfectly, from his stats in the Glossography to the description in the Players Guide (26) and LGJ0.

    ---CoE timeline---

    571CY founders: Mordnekainen, Bigby, Otto, Rary, Nystul, Drawmij, Bucknard (all LGJ0), Leomund/Guy Gas (Players Guide/OJ10), Keoghtom (me)

    574CY: Keoghtom --> Tenser (LGJ0)

    576CY: Leomund --> Otiluke (Player's Guide)

    579CY: Bucknard vanishes (PG)

    581CY: Jallarzi replaces Bucknard (PG)

    Prior to LGJ0, my understanding was that the original Co8 membership included Mordenkainen as one of the eight. Thus, I have the membership in 571 CY as Mordenkainen, Bigby, Bucknard, Drawmij, Leomund, Nystul, Otto, & Rary. Tenser's later addition coincided with Mordenkainen stepping back into his "man behind the curtain" role, overseeing and directing the other eight. I wish I could find my source, though. Confused Does that ring a bell for anyone?
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    Tue Dec 29, 2015 6:43 pm  

    DMPrata wrote:
    Prior to LGJ0, my understanding was that the original Co8 membership included Mordenkainen as one of the eight. Thus, I have the membership in 571 CY as Mordenkainen, Bigby, Bucknard, Drawmij, Leomund, Nystul, Otto, & Rary. Tenser's later addition coincided with Mordenkainen stepping back into his "man behind the curtain" role, overseeing and directing the other eight. I wish I could find my source, though. Confused Does that ring a bell for anyone?



    It makes sense except for the fact that in 571 CY I think Drawmij, Nystul, and Otto would be pretty low level considering their levels 11 years later in 582 CY in the City of Greyhawk boxed set. Would wizards of around 7th-9th level (my estimate) have enough influence in their areas to have gathered Mordenkainen's attention? Also, according to The Adventure Begins, Mordenkainen's explorations of Maure Castle was sometime between 560 CY and 570 CY when he was 12th level. I'm leaning more towards 570 CY because I don't see it taking Mordenkainen 22 years to go from 12th level to 20th. Thoughts?
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    Tue Dec 29, 2015 9:10 pm  

    xo42 wrote:
    I don't see it taking Mordenkainen 22 years to go from 12th level to 20th. Thoughts?


    It depends on how active he was in adventuring at the time. If he was out there every day, either on a quest or on the prowl looking for a new quest (which assumes he'd find one fairly quickly), I could see him advancing those levels faster. But, if he was spending most of his time "at home", those 22 years might not be enough to advance from 12th to 20th level.
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