Friday, 8 May 2020

On Leomund

“I long to hear the story of your life, which must captivate the ear strangely.”
― William Shakespeare, The Tempest


 A sleeping town under a cover of new-fallen snow. The silver glow of the moon casts a dim light down upon the darkness, but does nothing to disturb the silence. On the lattices of a frost-coated window, a bright island of golden light dances, shimmering and flickering as the candle flame inside the room is tossed about by the wind that forces its way through the cracks around the window. In the flickering light, an old man traces his finger across the archaic writing of a tattered grimoire, pausing every few moments to gaze out the window and lose himself in dreams of forgotten lore . . . knowledge . . . and power. [Dragon #82 - 55]

 Who was Leomund? The easiest way to answer this would be to put the question to Len Lakofka, himself, since the old sage was his character, and let him tell the tale in his own words. And he did just that in the Oerth Journal #10.
Much has been written about Leomund over the years, not all of it by Len, so there might be some confusion as to who he was and what he did, and whether or not he was a member of this group or that. Such is the way of things. Others take the reins, they extrapolate, they interpolate, they expound, and the character becomes something else, a work of fiction that is not what was.
 His was a humble beginning.I was born on Fireseek the 3rd 479 CY (5994 S.D. – for those of you who are civilized) “…. in a forest somewhere”, or so my mother told me. She was not very clear on exactly where and I never did press the issue. My guess is the Celadon Forest since she once said that she lived in Beetu in the Kingdom of Nyrond for a dozen or more years. When I visited Beetu I found it populated by a number of full-blooded elves as well as a number of people who are a mixture to human and elf. [OJ10]

 We know more about his mother than we do his father.
In the Beginning...
I never met my father but as the years passed I discovered that he was part elf, likely a quarter elf as best as I can determine. His heritage manifested itself as a very slight resistance to [sleep] and [charm] but more importantly by giving me a limited form of [infravision]. Being able to see a source of heat in complete darkness, when that source is about ten feet away, has saved my sorry rear end on more than one occasion! A least I did not get pointed ears out of the deal. Thanks dad. His heritage has also helped when it comes to my life span. I’m 111 now and I only feel like I’m 50 or so, not too bad for an old duffer like me. [OJ10]
Was his father an adventuresome sort? Maybe. Most likely. His mother most certainly was. Mother was a thief, I mean rogue, just in case you were unclear. [OJ10]
Final Kiss
That may be why she was attracted to him. She and he were very likely first thrown together for just that reason. I would suggest she enjoyed a fast life, one fraught with risk. Why? Mother was a devout worshipper of Norebo [….] [OJ10]
What happened to him? Leomund does not say. And neither did his mother. Maybe he died. Maybe he didn’t; maybe she absconded with the party’s loot.
 That’s speculation. We must keep with what Leomund said, in regards to her.
My mother, Elsieadar, was a pure blooded Suel. She was born in the Duchy of Urnst but found that her profession “…. was not always welcomed with open arms”, and, therefore, she decided to move to a more receptive locale. She had a typical Suel pale complexion, purple eyes and light curly red hair. She usually dressed in clothing that was bright red and orange splashed with yellow. My earliest memories of my mother were that she seemed to be aflame when she often wore her bright red town cloak. The cloak was red at the hem and gradually changed into reddish orange, orange and became yellow by the time it got to the neck and shoulders. The garment, at a distance, made the wearer look as though they were bathed in fire. I liked the look a great deal and copied it later in my career when I dabbled with “pyrology” and founded the Red Star League. [OJ10] 

Mother travelled, with him in tow. That much is obvious, regardless why she left the Celedon Forest. First to Irongate, shortly after his birth, then on to the Spindrift Islands in 482 CY, where they lived for a time in Kroton, then on a small farm on the outskirts of Lo Reltarma.
Why did she travel so much? Maybe by necessity.
Elsieadar in Irongate
I remember nothing of the city and she told me very little. The exception was a sign of one of the thief’s guilds that existed in the Iron League. These rogues were of a lawful nature and politically inclined as well. Years later I came to know a number of them personally and they helped me with the organization of my own ‘guild’. [OJ10]

I think it obvious that she was a member of the guild. How else would a boy of such tender years learn such a thing? 
That said, I mentioned earlier that she was a devout woman, even if her devotions were self-serving. A risktaker, she naturally wished to stack the deck, so to speak; who better then to worship than the god of luck? Such devotion rubbed off on Leomund; if not her path.
Mother was a devout worshipper of Norebo and because of her I took up the profession of cleric at the age of ten. […] However, I did not become a cleric of Norebo. When I attended a Church of the Big Gamble I was torn between laughter and protecting my purse. Even at ten years of age I discovered Norebo’s house of worship to be a ludicrous place. Instead I found that Lendore was a bit more to my liking. His temples were clean and orderly and somehow that produced a feeling of tranquility that I found refreshing. [OJ10]

Young Leomund
Even so, his future path was all too clear, even if he did not pursue it then. The clerics taught him to read, and he was soon reading everything he could get his hands on, even if that meant neglecting his devotions. His mentor, Rallyman, was both frustrated and pleased with his student. He might have censured the boy, but instead of getting angry, he encouraged him, and soon, Leomund was elevated to librarian.
Then, just after his 16th birthday, Rallyman sent him upon a task. Go collect a tome, he said, to which Leomund set upon the road to Kroton to retrieve a book from Elesar ‘a Bendar, a sage of some repute. He took along a couple of the sons of Rallyman’s old adventuring party, a fighter named Sormat and a roguish fellow named Tegger, for the road can be a dangerous place.
We got the book all right and were on the way back when the little band of thieves hit us. Tegger was surprised by the first volley, surprised to see three arrows protruding out of his belly. Sormat and I were lucky to be missed by arrows as we watched Tegger go down to his knees and then kiss the ground. I pulled out my trusty hammer and dropped it. Sigh. I guess I should not tell every agonizing blow in this melee but when it was done there were five dead thieves (including Tegger) and Sormat was cut up badly enough to be unconscious. I was fortunate that the thieves took Sormat as the threat and not me. Thank you Lendor. I did have a cure and after some work I got him bandaged enough to get back on the trail.
I did learn my first lesson in being a scavenger from this melee. I got a reasonably good fitting set of leather armor out of the deal and a few coins as well. More importantly I found the scrap of parchment with the map to the place where the thieves were to drop the book off. Sorehead, I mean Sormat, wanted to avenge poor Tegger and since I absolutely needed a guard I had little choice. It also taught me not to tell everything that I discovered to a fighter in the party while we were still on the adventure. “What an idiot!” I thought to myself – I called him an idiot actually but then he punched me in the nose and this reinforced the lesson of not speaking to fighters. [OJ10]

I would be remiss if I did not describe Leomund, at this point.
I had the look of a Suel male. I was thin and pale with dark blue eyes and reddish blond hair, which, alas, began to fall out when I was the tender age of 29. I topped out at 5’11 and have stayed below 150 pounds my entire life. I, like my mother, like to dress in red and orange but while adventuring I learned that a dark green or dark gray cloak is far more practical. [OJ10]
So, Leomund was Suel. Yes and no. He most certainly was, but more. We would call him a Variant human, now. He would refer to himself as Quarf (¾ human, ¼ elf), his father Hulf (Human-elf).

Further adventures followed, but Leomund found that his interest in the arcane drew him from his devotions, and he began to wonder if a life in the service of Lendor was indeed his calling. He had an active and inquisitive mind, and a cloistered life did not lend itself to study and research, in much the same way as his life in the library had.
In Tutelage to Elesar 'a Bendar
He decided to leave the monestary and apprentice himself to the Sage Elesar ‘a Bendar, who had subsequently moved to Loreltarma, where Leomund spent the next four years studying and copying text from one tome to another. And for the next thirty years, Bendar sent him on missions to the Spindrifts, Medegia, the Lordship of the Isles, and as far away as the Iron League nations, and beyond. 
A notable adventure when I was 37 years old and [by then, of considerable talent,] occurred in the Hold of the Sea Princes. As you know the Sea Princes had mostly ‘retired’ by this year (516CY). A few, who did not live along the coast, had taken to keeping and selling slaves. It is a popular misconception that all the ‘princes’ held slaves. That is not the case. Many of the coastal nobles abhorred slavery but they were not powerful enough in the central plain and western mountain valleys to stop the practice. Also the Island Fleet Commodores still favored slavery as well.
Elesar sent the three of us to meet with Prince Jeon (the 1st). He was to direct us to the probable location of a book of great potency that was carried from the Suel Empire and had somehow made its way into the possession of the Plar of Hool. The Plar, then Yestiman ‘ad Grep, was a fat, totally detestable fellow with blotchy skin who constantly scratched at himself in many uncomely ways. Yestiman was in Monmurg at the time for an annual festival celebrating the Hold’s former seafaring prowess. We tried to negotiate with Yestiman and offered the splendid diamond our master had given us (fully worth 20,000GP) to buy the book. He was intractable. He did, however, send an assassin to kill us in our sleep at the palace of the Prince. The assassin was truly amazed that a little halfling coming up behind him could do that much damage but his amazement was short lived. He died in the next few minutes. The Plar had already left for Hool. A place I did not want to visit! Accompanied by a few select mercenaries provided for us by Jeon we took off after the Plar. Poor Yestiman was last seen floating in his beloved Hool Marsh and we did get the book Elesar sent us for. [OJ10]

He gained a Cloak of Displacement from the corpulent Yestiman, and used it in conjunction with a Cloak of Blending, the results of which both surprised him, and opened his eyes to ethereal states of being, the research into which unlocked many mysteries and led to his developing his Tiny Hut, the spell that holds his name to this day. Then his Secret Chest. Then others. Leomund discovered that he had a flare for creating spells, most of which were dedicated to the preservation of his person, survival being the most important and fundamental goal of adventuring, in his experience. Mine too, come to think on it. Leomund was a pretty wise and cagey cat, in that regard.

Point in case:
Leomund’s Lamentable Belabourment                   (Enchantment/Evocation)
Level: 5                                                                                 Components: V Range: 1”
Casting Time: 5 segments                                             Duration: Special
Saving Throw: Special                                                     Area of Effect: 1 or more creatures in a 1” radius

By means of this spell, the magic-user causes a combination of fascination, confusion, and rage upon 1 or more creatures able to understand the language in which the spell caster speaks. Upon casting the spell, the magic-user begins discussion of some topic germane to the creature or creatures to be affected. Those not saving versus magic will immediately begin to converse with the spell caster, agreeing or disagreeing, all most politely. As long as the spell caster chooses, he or she can maintain the spell by conversing with the subject(s). As long as there is no attack made upon them, they will ignore all else going on around them, instead “choosing” to spend their time exclusively talking and arguing.

If the spell is maintained for more than 3 rounds, each subject creature must attempt another save versus spell. Those failing to save this time will wander off in confusion for 3-12 rounds, avoiding proximity of the spell caster in any event. Those who make the confusion save are still kept in fascination and must also save in the 4th, 5th, and 6th rounds (or for as long as the caster continues the dweomer) to avoid the confusion effect. If the spell is maintained for more than 6 rounds, each subject must save versus spell to avoid going into a rage — either at oneself, if one is the sole object of the spell, or at all other subjects of the spell — and attack suicidally (regular “to hit” probability) against one’s own person, or fall upon the nearest other subject of the dweomer with intent to kill. This rage will last for 2-5 rounds. Those subjects who save versus spell on the rage check will realize that they have fallen prey to the Belabourment, and will collapse onto the ground, lamenting their foolishness, for 1-4 rounds unless attacked or otherwise disturbed.
If during the course of the maintenance of the spell the caster is attacked and/or otherwise distracted, he or she is still protected, for the subject or subjects will not notice. The magic-user can leave at any time after the casting and the subject(s) will continue on for 1 full round as if he or she were still there to converse with. In these cases, however, saving throws versus spell for continuance of the spell are not applicable, even if, for instance, the subject(s) would otherwise have had to save to avoid confusion or rage. Note that the spell is entirely verbal.
[Dragon #68 - 25]

He wrote many spells, and most of them can be found in the books he wrote. More than a few others must have shared my opinion, because his spells with copied into many arcane tomes, too many to mention, actually, which might explain Leomund’s widespread fame. Here is a list of the most famous, the tomes you would be most likely to find in libraries that exhibit an interest in the arcane:

Architecture By Leomund & Mordenkainen
(Leomunds Secure Shelter, Leomunds Tiny Hut, Forcecage, Mordenkainens Magnificent Mansion)

Forgotten Arts of Oratory Magnetism By Leomund
 (Fascinate, Taunt, Irritation, Truename, Leomunds  Lamentable Belabourment)

Thesis on the Planes of Anti-Matter By Leomund
Leomund's Secret Chest
(Rope Trick, Distance Distortion, Astral Spell, Disintegrate, Leomunds Secret Chest, Duo-dimension, Deep Pockets)

Transcendental Impenetrabilities By Leomund
(Leomunds Tiny Hut, Minor Globe of Invulnerability, Globe of Invulnerability, Prismatic Sphere)

Libram of the Great Paravisual Emanations by Nystul
(Nystuls Magic Aura, Shadow Magic, Demi-shadow Magic, shades, Leomunds Trap)

[Dragon #82 (56,57,58), by Bruce Heard]

Leomund/Guy Gas
Leomund could not have done this all on his own. He took an apprentice in the year 539 CY. I had turned 60 but looked 39, or so my more polite friends told me. An earnest young mage named Guy Gas came to me for what turned out to be two years of additional training. As coincidence would have it, if you believe in coincidence, Guy Gas looked very much like me at the time. Not identical by any stretch, he was a little taller and heavier and his hair was a brighter shade of red than mine. However, people not knowing both of us, often thought he was I and would call him Leomund. I had somewhat of a reputation at that time (no, not that reputation – the good one), and Guy Gas seemed to like the recognition. [OJ10]
Guy Gas […] traveled to Greyhawk where he set up shop and began to mingle with fellow mages there. That would have been fine but he took on my persona and identity! The faux Leomund even went so far as to join the Circle of Eight! He retired there, as me, in the year 576 CY! [OJ10]

Rumour has it that Leomund was one of the Circle of Eight. He refutes that, explaining that is was Guy Gas, and not him, and that his once apprentice had even cloned himself, and that each of those believed themselves to be their eponymous self. It does make for complexing what is truly his doings and what is theirs.
Point in case:
In the mid-500s, a Wild Coast wizard named Mordenkainen quietly began to confer with several sorcerers in the Greyhawk area about the possibility of forming a group dedicated to the preservation of the Flanaess from external threats. This group became known as the Circle of Eight, an outgrowth of an earlier group of eight powerful individuals formed by Mordenkainen known as the Citadel of Eight, said to be headquartered in the Yatil Mountains at Mordenkainen’s retreat. A few of the members of the Circle of Eight have been publicly named, such as Bigby and Tenser. The latter was already a semiresident of the Domain of Greyhawk, as he had taken control of an ancient castle on the southern shore of the Nyr Dyv near the city. Two other mages known to have joined the Circle were Bucknard (who vanished in 579 CY and was later replaced by Jallan) and the ancient mage Leomund, an immigrant from the east who retired from the Circle in 576 CY and has been little seen since. [TAB - 60]
It has been said that Zagig, The Black One of the Vale of the Mage, Leomund, Melf, and Serten, all powerful archmages and rivals to the circle of eight, watch the comings and goings of the Power Tower. They call themselves the “Ring of Five”. [WGR1 Greyhawk Ruins - 3]
Leomund was a clever and practical individual who invented numerous spells of containment used by adventurers the Flanaess over, He kept his whereabouts a secret, though he is generally thought to have once lived in Medegia. He has not been heard from in some years. [PGtG - 23]

Leomund was busy during this period, too busy in fact to have been involved in much of the shenanigans ascribed to him, if any. He was researching new spells, and that led to maybe the most epic adventure of his life:
I started work on a special hourglass that I had thought about creating for a few years. My studies were going well and I was about to cast enchant an item on the hourglass when I got a visitor. She was a female elf mage named Delorn, as she introduced herself. She said she had “heard of my research” and that she was here to help and warn me. Well, I have always been an idiot when someone praises me and I did not realize that I had not talked of my research on the hourglass to anyone. We worked together for six months. Her knowledge of temporal mechanics, as she called them, was breathtaking! On the 1st day of Brewfest 580 (6095 SD) I turned the hourglass, which I had named Lendor’s Matrix, over for the first time. [OJ10]
Delorn transformed into an aged, yet spritely gentleman: Lendor. “You will be just in time to save some of my people [,” he said, before fading from sight.] “Fare well!”
Lendore found himself atop a palatial tower, surrounded by an array of windows that looked upon the most fantastical sight.
I paused to look out of the windows. The city that I as in was huge and stretched as far as I could see in every direction. Many of the multi-colored stone buildings had four or more stories. There were a number of temples to the gods of the Suel. Lendor’s temple, about 250 feet away from me, could not be mistaken. The city had the ancient Suel Empire look about it. “Good grief! I realized that I was in one of those ancient cities, probably the capital. I went to the one chair in the room and sat down. Before me was a large book with a silver and red cover. Written upon it an ancient Suloise was the title Tome of the Scarlet Sign. [OJ10]
The Matrix had accompanied him. Or had it? Was this some other, created by another mage of that bygone age?
The trap door opened and an amazed man paused on the ladder he was climbing and stared at me.
“Who are you? What are you doing here?” he said in Suloise. The pronunciation was not quite what I expected but I understood him.
“I am here because of Lendor’s labor. That is the item that brought me here.” I pointed at the hourglass. “It is called Lendor’s Matrix. It teleported me and took me out of my time.” [OJ10]

Leomund said that just then the last grain of sand ran out.
Did it? Is he being coy? Did he spend far more time there than a few seconds? If he had, why did Lendor bother sending him there in the first place and not to his final destination.
And who might that bygone mage have been? Who else might Lendor have aided in creating such a device as Leomund’s Matrix? Slerotin?
Was Leomund Slerotin? That’s wild speculation; but wouldn’t that be a wonder, and it would tie in with Leomund’s comment that Lendor said, “You will be just in time to save some of my people [….]”
Who Will Stop the Rain?
I imagine Leomund desperately trying to divert the Suel from their course, the weight of time and destiny thrawting him at every turn until the end; then his deperate bid to save those same people who might have heeded him, but didn't.
Either way, that is idle musing on my part. An epic twist, in fact, even if the thought might be inspired by Raistlin and Fistandantolus.
I'm sure Len would not approve, though.

In any event, Leomund said that he was transported from that bygone Suloise city. Did he expect to return to his study? He does not say, but he was transported again, this time to the deck of a ship, a black bank of fog rolling across the water towards it.
“What is that fog,” he asked, only to discover that not only did they not understand him, they advanced on him with the likely intent of putting an end to him. It was then that Leomund realized that he he was woefully unprepared for whatever task Lendor had in mind for him. He did not have his books, his staff, or any of his adventuring gear upon him. He was in his study, after all, not prepping for adventure!
He tried elvish, and one stepped forward. He was indeed an elf, but of no type Leomund had ever encountered.
“Do you know what that black fog is?” he said in elfish.
“Well no”, I didn’t. “Where on Oerth are we?”
“Oerth? What is Oerth? This world is, as all know, Dyrth”. Oh boy, I was on another world. Charming. All of this wonder was put on hold as the black fog boiled and flashed up closer and closer and began to overtake the ship farthest from us. In another two or three minutes it would be upon our ship.
“Have you tried to dispel it?”
“Yes we have, to no avail.” I stepped down from the bow and moved to the stern. No one hindered me. I conjured a dispel magic just before the fog caught us. To my great joy the fog that was about to overtake us evaporated into a white mist. The black fog, as it turned out, just a wall of fog and it was only a few dozen feet thick. We were on the other side of the wall of darkness and it was rolling away at the same speed. The hole I had created in the Fog was ‘healing’ itself as the wall moved on and in another minute the gap was gone. I had ‘saved’ our ship from the consequences of the fog and my popularity suddenly changed. I was hoisted aloft and, thank Lendor, NOT cast into the ocean. [OJ10]
He had saved the ship, but not those less hearty upon the ships that accompanied them. But for what?
They made landfall upon an unknown land. The surveyed the land around them, and set about building shelter for the coming months as they attempted to repair their ships and sails. The task proved daunting. And lengthy. Leomund spent the next nine years living with, teaching them, protecting them, until Lendor appeared, a wizened, crippled old man.
Lendor confided that [he had taken me] away from Oerth because otherwise I would surely have died in the Greyhawk Wars. My own Red Star League was compromised on many levels by the Scarlet Brotherhood and I would have had great difficulty sorting out who was true friend and who was a spy. But my Master was good to me and gave me a Red Eye Cusp that I now wear in my left eye. It allows me full infravision out to 90 feet, how nice, no more of this having to get within ten feet. More importantly it allows me to see an aura of yellow around Lawful Mages who are NOT part of the Scarlet Brotherhood. [OJ10]

Where am I now? Well, in the Spindrifts, of course. I am a friend to the High Elves and Lendor put in a word with Corellon that gets me into most places where the High Elves still exist. I did rescue my library without losing a book and I’ve been known to do a good Sage job from time to time. I’ll be more visible in the next few years if the damn assassins from the Scarlet Brotherhood don’t catch up with me. The last time I saw the Master of Obedience we agreed not to agree. I am a Suel but I’m not a Suel who believes in any supreme race, thank you. [OJ10]

Take this work as you will. Most of the content is from the Oerth Journal #10, written by Lenard Lakofka, himself. I have just woven in what other sources available to me to add to the text, and to include “all” (unlikely) the canon material available.
It's art heavy. The reason? Because as I began to look into his history, I discovered that I love Leomund. He is that tenacious soul who rose from meagre beginnings to unostentatious heights. He is humble. Yet truly powerful.

One must always give credit where credit is due. This History is made possible primarily by the Imaginings of Gary Gygax and his Old Guard, especially Lenard Lakofka, without whom we would not have Leomund at all.
The primary source for this piece was Greyhawk Online's Oerth Journal #10, Leomund's Life, by Lenard Lakofka.
Special thanks to Jason Zavoda for his compiled index, “Greyhawkania,” an invaluable research tool.

The Art:
Leomund's Secret Chest, by D.C. Sutherland III (?), Players Handbook, 1978
Unearthed Arcana Cover, by Jeff Easley, 1985
The Rain of Colorless Fire, by Vince Locke, 2000

The art is solely owned by the artists.
All source material presented within this blog is owned and copyrighted by WotC.
The use of this material is not intended to challenge the rights of WotC.
This document is fan content and presented solely for the personal use of those individuals who game within the Greyhawk Setting.

9577 The Adventure Begins, 1998 
9578 Player’s Guide to Greyhawk, 1998
Dragon Magazine 68, 82
OJ Oerth Journal #10, appearing on Greyhawk Online
Greyhawkania, Jason Zavoda
The map of Anna B. Meyer


  1. That was totally nuts! I must admit I've never read this OJ10 story by Len. Until recently when I've talked to Lakofka on stream, I didn't even give much thought to Leomund at all!
    Kudos on drawing all this information to one place. You always surprise me, David!

  2. A great article, to be sure! VERY informative, and researched.

    Kind of wish the pot-shot at Gygax (Guy Gas) for "stealing" Leomund and making him part of the Circle of Eight wasn't still being bandied about, though.
    Personally, I think it's kind of disrespectful for Len to have done, but, still. Most people would've been *honored* that their character was included in such a prestigious group!

    I wonder, does that mean that we shouldn't consider "Leomund's Secret Chest" to have been actually created or researched by that Leomund?

    Otherwise, some *really* great tidbits here and there, and -as usual- some really interesting thoughts on the topic ... you've speculated on some interesting points, and really thought through what it all means!
    Well done!

  3. Thanks so much for this wonderful article, David! As ever, you've done a terrific job shedding some light on some of Greyhawk's slightly obscure figures and history.

    One thing that I have to wonder about after reading the article a couple of times: Mr. Lakofka is well-known as a 1E stalwart with a deep level of rules expertise. As of Unearthed Arcana, Half-Elves (as he seems to describe Leomund) have a level limit of 8 in the Magic-User class. I wonder how he managed to get around that limitation? Clearly, given the exploits of Leomund's career, he must have been of more advanced level than that. There must be a story in that!

    This, of course, does nothing to denigrate the quality of your article, David...which, as per usual, was most excellent!

  4. Well done, I had had many a conversation with Len on doing a proper full biography of Leomund but we never got anywhere with it, he did not want his character portrayed as it was by TSR. His gaming life playing Leomund was the true history of his character. It was interesting that Len helped develop many of the spells that went into the ODD and the ADD systems and so in many ways Leomund was the creator of more than just the Leomund spells. Also there was at least one spell with his name on it that he had nothing to do with, but again was powerless to change. My proposal was we just write a biography for free distribution, written in as if in game, but all his way, but it was a shame it never happened.